Photo provided by Helen Hope Kimbrough

Children’s book author Helen Hope Kimbrough emphasizes summer reading plans.

What inspired you to write your first children’s book?
My sons are the inspirers of my children’s books. Because I love to read, I wanted to make certain that my children enjoyed reading also. I never wanted to hear them say that reading was boring. So I started making up music to sing along with their favorite storybooks, then I started creating my own children’s stories and original tunes to my unique stories to life. Therefore, my first two children’s books: Ocean Waves and Other Tales and Play Dates and Other Tales, feature short stories, beautiful illustrations and musical CDs. My goal was to create an experience for them to love and appreciate reading.

How is it being a parent in today’s society?
I take such joy in being a parent. To watch my sons grow into mature and respectful young men is a blessing. However, it takes hard work, encouragement, patience, nurturing, discipline, prayer, communication, and love.

How have you been able to assist others to advocate for their children?
Family engagement is an arena that I’d like to grow on a larger scale. I get an opportunity to engage with parents during story time or through various reading centers/programs, but I would like to share a message that parents (and guardians) are their child’s first teacher and have it resonate. A parent knows his or her child better than anyone, and it is important to advocate and know how to advocate on their son’s or daughter’s behalf particularly when it comes to education, health, and wellness.

What tips can you provide to parents who have children who have challenges with reading?
Summer reading is important for children. Statistics and reports state that children who read at least four to six books over the summer are more inclined to maintain or improve their reading levels once they return to school in the fall. For some children, reading over four books is not a challenge. However, for the reluctant reader, this task can be problematic.

Below, I have outlined several options for reluctant readers that may work and offer support:

· Have your child read books or reading materials that he or she can relate to. This content can consist of sports, comics, animals, fantasy, TV characters, or classic stories.

· Have your child draw or illustrate pictures from a story that he or she is reading. This activity enables a child to be creative and expressive. Plus, it promotes comprehension of a story.

· Have your child participate in a theatre program. Reading and reciting lines gives a child a fun way to read words, project words, and act out the words of a story. This is storytelling at its best for a child.

· Think about hiring a tutor or engaging a reading buddy to work on various reading activities. Depending on your child’s motivation or needs, a tutor will offer more specialized services whereas a reading buddy will serve as a reading mentor.

· Read aloud and together. Some children just don’t like to read alone. Therefore, a parent or guardian may need to be available to read during a specific time (at least 30 minutes) each day. So read a paragraph, a page, or a chapter, then have your child follow this pattern. If you commute or travel often, create games where words are involved like names of landmarks, streets, cities, or states beginning with a specific alphabet. Reading together is a worthwhile family treat.

Overall, the best advice that I can give from years of personal and professional experience is to find out what your child likes to read, and have him or her read it often. The goal is to read and to have fun reading.

What gave you the courage to be an entrepreneur?
Rejection letters. My original plan was to publish traditionally rather than independently. However, I received tons of rejection letters. Even on my quest to pitch my manuscripts to publishers and publicists at the Book Expo, I was denied. Somehow my audience wasn’t big enough, my books had CDs in them, I didn’t have name recognition which in business that the return on investment would have been low. Therefore, I decided to research and create my own publishing company, AK Classics LLC, and launch multicultural children’s books.

What has been your most proud moment?
I have many proud moments. However, I want to indulge on two of my proudest moments. One, I was visiting a literacy festival and a preschool teacher relayed to me that she had a student named Ashley who had difficulty speaking. After months of teaching this little girl and reading and singing my musical story, Ocean Waves, this student sang the story from beginning to end. I was moved to tears when I heard this because it’s rare when I get to experience the physical impact of how my books/stories can transform a child’s life. Two, when the legendary Dr. Maya Angelou looked me in my eyes, held my hand, and said, “Keep on writing, baby”, I was overcome with emotion. That’s a treasured moment.

What is the focus of your new book?
Yummy Healthy Tasties in my Tummy is a very unique, fun, and educational book for children. Mixed with beautiful illustrations and tasty food images, this book helps children learn about different foods in their natural state and the many ways those foods can be eaten. To keep things exciting throughout the book, there is a catchy phrase for children to chant along the way. Hopefully, children will be chanting and wanting to eat healthy foods in no time.

Tell us about your education, training and memberships.
I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Hampton University. For over a decade, I have committed myself to interactive storytelling, writing, and literacy initiatives to support children and families. This is apparent in my commitments with nonprofits like Reading Partners, Promising Pages, the Literacy Council of Union County, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library Foundation, Jack & Jill of America, Incorporated, and as a 2016 award honoree by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in North Carolina for my role in making reading fun, engaging, and life-changing.

What does success look like to you?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.” I firmly believe that we all can be great with a heart to serve. Therefore, being a servant leader is successful to me.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Traveling the world, serving on international mission trips, and having a larger platform to raise awareness on the value, importance, and essential skills of reading. For reading can clearly change the trajectory of one’s life which can favorably impact and strengthen a family, a community, and a nation.

Where can people find out more information about you and your books?
To learn more about me and my books, visit www.akclassicstories.com. Amazon.com is another option for book purchases.
Social media includes:
Facebook: @AKClassicsLLC
Facebook: @HelenHopeKimbrough
Twitter: @helenhk4

Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.