Welcome to the Neighborhood!
In North Central Florida, snuggled between the freshwater springs and the monumental live oaks trees, lies the small town of Alachua. A town full of good people with extraordinary values. I ought to know as well as anyone. This is the town that gave me my first home, my first friends and my first education. Alachua is a Native American word from the Seminole Tribe that means “sink”. Despite the name, it has been a community that continues to rise. Without a doubt, among the brightest of the rising stars are the children that call Alachua home. These kids are like any other kids in any other neighborhood. They play, dance, sing and learn just like kids in your neighborhood. Just know, when you’re here, you’re home. The Neighborhood Kids and I would like to officially and warmly welcome you to the neighborhood.
Mission #1 – Give back my gift
This project has been very important to me. I really wanted to give children the opportunity to see a reflection of themselves in books that illustrated experiences they could relate to. It’s so very special for children, especially brown children, to see images that look like them. I remember the important role that books had in shaping who I am today. The creativity, the imagination and the dreams that I’ve developed were all a combination of the early reading that I was exposed to.
Mission #2 – We need to do better in education
It’s not just about me. Not only do I want to share stories that I think are important to children, but I also want to help improve reading skills for many kids that need it. In 2018, The Florida Department of Education released statewide scores for third-grade students that took the FSA test. In Alachua County, only 56 percent of students earned a satisfactory score or higher. Throughout the state of Florida, the average was 57 percent. One area I hope this project makes a difference in is making reading fun and interesting. Kids are excited to see people and places they recognize. By having young characters that are approachable and engaging coupled with identifiable environments, children will really enjoy reading these stories over and over again. Oh yeah, I also added sight words from
K- second grade to make these fun books educational.
Mission #3 – Because we love kids
I know this sounds very cliché, but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s true. Children really are our future. They will mold the world we live in one day. They will be the healers, the inventors, the entertainers, the politicians and even the presidents that will construct the realities that remain to be seen. The life they will have will be determined greatly by the influence we afford them now. It’s on all of us to do our part to ensure that we’re can help them succeed, flourish and reach their highest potentials.
With the help of good friends, Jordyn Marshall and Nicholas Sivils (Illustrators), I hope this project can be a positive impact on many young lives to come. Thank you for all of the support.