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The cut and for evening exchange. August 24th 1992. Hi I'm Kojo Nnamdi tonight at something an evening Xchange. We will talk with the creators of the first comic book featuring a black book titled hero that is produced and distributed by an African-American family. We'll also talk with the author of the story book The Reluctant little astronaut who is also the creator of a unique program reinforcing reading skills through poetry that will discover why reading is so fundamental That's all tonight at 7:00 right here on HLN. Even exchange.
Pow. Crash. Boom. All sounds familiar to Batman readers. But now Brother Man is the new hero in the big city. Then we'll zoom through the world of spelling and reading with a little brother known as the reluctant little astronaut. Finally we will explore why. Reading is fundamental. Good evening I'm Kojo Nnamdi. What does a lawyer who doubles as a super hero have to do with this segment of evening Xchange. Well with me tonight are the creative team of big city comic books. Jason Simms president and business manager David Sims vice president and art director Guy Sims could not make it here. But we have more than enough of the Sims family. They are the creators of the comic book Brother Man dictator of discipline brothers
welcome to evening Xchange Nike. And whose idea was brought them in. Well it was a compilation of their president and distribution manager Guy Davis the vice president art director. And guys our principal writer. And it was me and David are big city comics and we formed it in April. You formed it in really January February of 1990 and it was really a compilation of everybody's ideas. You all I presume brothers and cousins were all like that. And would that mean that guy is the artist he's as is the art director on the illustrated guys you are the illustrator guys the writer. How long have you been an artist. And so I've been illustrating all my life I think with what we're doing with a company is really illustration is just really one small segment so we all were a lot of different heads in terms of running the operation is really more
of with the business management is really more of what's propelling it into. That's what I gather. Where did this entrepreneurial spirit come from because it's fine to be in those trade. It's fine to be a writer but. This family decided to enter into entrepreneurship. How did that all happen. Well my father has been publishing his own books for for a long time and you know he where are you from. Well we're originally from Philadelphia but presently we're based in Irving Texas right outside of Dallas and I'm somewhere near the Dallas Cowboys right here. Yes. My dad I think he instilled in us really more of like a do it yourself type attitude and really whatever you're good at and you know you know whatever you want to be just be the best at it. And in terms of businesses we've we've had our own businesses since we were like really young from like just doing T-shirts for people silkscreening shirts.
Then David had a couple of their best shops. And then you know I was doing a certain thing how many boys in the family. I have three brothers and oldest brother he's an engineer out in California. And Guy guy works at a college in San Diego and writes you know writes the book on the site and me and David do the book Full time work on the book. How difficult was this as a venture as a business venture to launch. Well what happened was we had a custom barber shop in East Orange New Jersey. At the time me and Jason and the Black Expo New York was coming up and what we were planning on doing was come out with a promotional item. We just wanted to do something that would just be different and unique. That's the way that we function anyway. So we just want to do something that will draw attention to our booth in New York. So the comic book was like one of the many things on our agenda for 90. However when we approach it we knew what we had a business plan in terms of what we wanted to
do because you have a business background right. But it wasn't it was more like an internal business plan it wasn't something that was on paper it's just the way that we work. It's hard to explain that process. So what happened was when we came out with the book we never really looked at it as something that was hard or difficult. We just looked in terms of challenging because we knew that was going to be a lot of barriers. I mean you know for instance that the comic book business is a humongous big business and that most of the people who are involved with it have a great deal of capital a great deal of clout and do not relish competition. Right. But I think what happens with us and what we're made of differ is that we're not coming from a comic book background. Right. And basically I wasn't really concerned about what's happening in the comic book industry and most of our clientele are people who don't read comic books and however we still pick up the comic book market. We can still penetrate the comic book industry but that is not our primary concern.
That is very interesting fascinating. Who is your primary clientele. Well I mean it really is kind of like a it's still expanding. We started off really catering more towards black bookstores and on the black Expos which was initially designed for. Right. Right now we're in the middle of a 14 city tour where we've been going from New York to L.A. just hitting all the black expos. And we also have a huge mailing mail order business going on at home where like as we want to go now parents are home like handling of operations and shipping books. And. By the tons and. So it's really light in terms of who who's actually your marketing strategy has not was not for us to get into the big comic book stores that didn't have any intention. Doesn't really like to supplement like everything. I like everything and everything. Supplements everything else because we deal with the black bookstores and bookstores and as you get more books in circulation we get a lot of people ordering just from the back of the book. So
just from the back of the books you know they're their own it's its own separate entity. And then we're starting to tap into more record stories and barbershops. So individuals who just saw him on the street because it's unique. They can buy them in bulk and just sell it to their friends. And what our objective when we started it was to build a grassroots. Grass grassroots network where really the the smaller independent stores can make the money off the business as opposed to we weren't thinking in terms of some giant network picking up that's still not our objective now. Yeah because I guess a lot of people who are basically illustrators are writers are merely shopping around for somebody to capitalize them and put them in business. That was never your intention. You're not going to in the words of something people sell out this business to somebody with more money. Well it's late you know. I mean our objective is to develop that
entity where people come to you and you publish them. You can't publish them. So my own view. And. And that's. And it's nothing new to us because you know since I had my businesses in Philly and Jersey I mean even at each stage my objective was to maintain control of what I do and this is not the first operation where people offer me money for something that I've developed but I think that comes from like a mindset that's happened on this on this project already that it's been since day one when we came out with the product because people knew it was unique. It just happened to come out in an era where I guess is this new awareness. But with what we're trying to do is it's really something that's instilled in us you know something that we it's like an extension of what we've always been doing it wasn't something to be part of a trend. And we knew after we came out you know there will be like I guess a lot of people going after the concept. But you know we just
maintain control. And so you control your publishing company and you are now in a position so that if I happen to know a young man or woman who happens to be talented and wants to get published you're the people they can come to with a proposal of some kind. Yeah but we're not really publishing any other material right now. I was looking in terms of the first people. Like right now we just want to get back to Texas. We're about to open up our office because we're actually we're pulling it out of the House and we're getting in office for the office is the office primarily is for really the more likely distribution headquarters and we're we're looking into hiring a part time person really just to handle packaging of orders. And really the first thing you want to hire are really people on the marketing side marketing marketing communications packaging and shipping shipping side not on not really on the artwork side because what we do we're building up the business and the distribution that work for we come out with any other titles I
can see kasama the new title. It can go out real strong. I got so many more questions that I hope we get time off because I deal with all of them. One is when you said we're not looking for the comic book Plan clientele it struck me that when you're in black bookstores and even barbershops a lot of black parents come in there and they say Well here are something that might get Johnny interested in reading have you gotten that response from Andy. Yes. It seemed like I guess that's why it's hard for us to say like a lot of people ask what what how can they benefit or what was one of your objectives when you put the book together was it to fill a void to give people a black here or was it too because you loved art. It's like it's hard to explain a lifetime's worth of information and values. It's like when you know you know when you were younger you may not have read something over here but you would have read something because the illustrations in the story
interesting you know it was of interest to you. So we knew you know it's like a double edged sword doing this business you know at the same time you fill in the void doing what you like to do and control what you do. You really are. Moving a lot of people's emotions in terms of you doing something that you know it kind of gives a lot of people hope they look at it as their comic book company as well as yours. I wish you were around when I was a kid. I had a friend in high school who hated reading. He is now a medical doctor today but he failed English in high school and the rest of us as his friends got together to try to force him and help them to read. And we started him with comic books because that was the only thing that he could relate to. The other thing that strikes me is that. You guys know that the imitators are not far behind. How do you deal with that. Well we weave the way we I mean you when you've done their marketing for them. Now they know it's going to work for them not for me. I think what happens is is well since we came out of this but we don't we don't get concerned
about what anybody else is doing. Once you get concerned about a cause some people call us up and say you don't you know somebody is doing this or somebody is doing it. I said Hey dude look I like this. I like to be able to read you know what's going to happen in my book and I like to see another book that I can sit down and I don't I don't get concerned about it because I stay focused with what I'm doing you know. And that's the way I've always been as an artist. It's like I let another artist sit up right next to me. It has nothing to do with what I'm doing because my work is is. It's me I guess my son. I look at it like. I'm like I'm when I say good luck I'm like good luck because you can have the book together. And then after that I mean there's certain things have to to get their first book done and then after the book's done we go from there and. You know if they get real good sales there's a whole there's a whole new set of obstacles that come they come upon you even when your sales just increase increase increase. Or they knew you were going to exit at that
point you were just operating a business. It's a business and you just you have to keep. You have to keep track of your product inventory where it where products are going if if if something doesn't get where it's supposed to get to at a certain time can you track them. Can you track their product service and to new servicing servicing stores. So you have to relate with. You have to relate with different stores if you relate with the media coverage relate to the media or relate to customers. You know if you have individual comics going out to people you have OK that's enough obstacles for the time being for those members of your club. Henceforth these guys are talking about business. We thought you were going to talk about this comic book. Let us take a look at what brought them in the comic book it actually looks like it is you can see it on your screen. Brother Man he is here. Before we go you do have to tell us about the creative concertgoer my brother method where that came. OK. The story the premise is about a man named Antonio valor he's a system
DA and fictitious world which is a big city has its own laws and everything and it's supposed to be light. It's supposed to signify the epitome of corruption. It's supposed to be the city where everything is just blown out of proportion. Tonio Valley is the type of person that he's determined to make a difference when society dictates a change cannot be changed cannot be made. So he a type person where his life is dedicated to trying to make a difference and within his lifetime. And I think part of the humor that's that's laced with in the book. Is that. It's really it's a man going against the way society is because he's going against social apathy greed seduction and so many things that corrupts society. And you know it is done in a way where it's humorous and not heavy handed but a lot of people they can they can get with the message and at the same time you can enjoy the entertainment. And you've been an illustrator and artist all your life. What does it take. To hone that particular skill. So that it becomes an acceptable comic book.
Is this something you have to do to make sure that your characters and the way you draw them are appealing to people. It's simple. It's some of you know some of the basics is simple it's determination. I mean regards if you're an artist or sports television whatever or whatever you want to do. You have to say this is why I want to do and you have to sacrifice a lot of things or to do that I sacrifice a lot of things coming up and wanted to be an artist which means I have to hone in my skills and say look in order to be an artist I don't want to be like I want to be able to put out the best quality product that I can despite if it was comics or portraits or whatever. You know one and I think what is this the result that you all seem to have that same attitude towards the business. Because when you pointed out that when you say good luck to somebody you not only mean the obstacles that they'll have to overcome but you also mean because you will have a hard time beating us because we are very focused on what we're trying to do. Does that mean that you welcome competition. Does that mean that you
want to see other so-called competition good competition. It's always like. It's it is everything helps set in the standard and. It's it just helps. It helps to make make sure that you don't get meaning me us that we don't start to slack up. Competition means that you just keep you know it's good it's good it just makes sure that everybody keeps excelling in what they're doing and it's good for. It's good for everyone. But you're also I guess the second part of my question has to do with the fact that you are part of a bigger whole you're going to black Expos are going to black bookstores which suggests to me that you also have an interest in the broader expansion of black businesses. Exactly. And that's something. Like I say when there's things the internal is like when you when you're raised that way to think that way that's naturally going to be a part of whatever it is that you try to enterprise. So it's not like you designed it so you can do this so you can be looked upon as a law even when I
had my businesses where people didn't know of me. My objective was to do something where I can be in a position to share information and try to make a difference you know so the Sims family continuing publishing enterprise and the specific publication brought them in comics you can get in your black bookstore and hopefully soon in your barbershop. Congratulations to you. Please keep up the good work and going home. Thank you. When we come back we'll take a trip through the world of poetry and reading. Stay with us.
OK actually I'm looking for something in this book. This is the book that our next guest. Has developed. She has developed a program that uses Portree as a tool to reinforce reading skills. Now joining me is Dr. P Mae Malone author of the book The Reluctant little astronaut. Welcome to evening Xchange Dr. Malone. What is it that inspired you to write this book of poetry called the reluctant little astronaut about this little boy who wanted so badly to become an astronaut that his friends and family got a little bit worried about whether or not he really thought he was going to the moon. Or not. When Glenn took his orbit John Glenn. John Glenn I was teaching kindergarten and that was when I tried to find things in the bookstore in the library for children in that age about space nothing really. So the first thing I did was to write a little story about a little boy one
good old mill and we had in those days we had to teach community help. And if you notice that has community to help police when his grandfather was a postman and the fireman. And. Recreation director and all of those kinds of people and then the people at school. So I tried to encompass those kinds of people. With his ambition. Well the story was one thing. So I'll tell our viewers quickly about the story. The story about the little boy who wanted so badly to go to the moon to go into space that he couldn't wait. And he saw some older guys who said they were building a spaceship and he may not have understood that this was a model spaceship he thought it was the real thing. And so he volunteered. To go to the moon on their spaceship and his family became a little concerned because he seemed to be fairly convinced that he was going to the moon and they consulted with a psychologist and the teacher and everybody said Don't
worry reality will hit home at some point. Tell us how that reality hit home after you got into the spaceship. Well the day he was supposed to leave the boys put me to play in the space ship. And he started thinking and he tapped on the hat. You know the window. And he said when. They opened it and let him out he said I changed my mind I've got too many things to do. And he began to name the things he had to do including putting the Mets down at kindergarten happen. His mother and then and then maybe not an animal more likely nothing that I won't like what's on the moon. And when he made up his mind he said well when I'm older maybe. And then the next one says. When he wrote his a b c of space. And that was the I tried to get the technology from reading magazines newspapers watching
television. You had to do a lot of work to do this but it was fun. It was yeah because it was anything but the whole book of poetry or something else. But you know it's not it's dedicated to the kindergarden children because they started me writing. And every time I read a little poem or read little something I read it to them and then they said tell us the story. Call it a poem story or tell us the story about it. And they liked the story about the. Octopus and all of that starting in 1967 and it's still being published it's had his last printing in 1989. It is accompanied. By an activity book. Tell us how this works. Each item in the hardback book I called I'm content reading has no content you've got to go all around find content for reading. And I encompass math science geography history knowledge history. And then the kids would ask me what's
my side. And in those days they would called The Age of Aquarius. And I would have to go and try to look it up. So I had an old birthday book and I put the material in the back of the book and everybody learned to read his sign and his flower is what you call stones of stone. And yet you know like sapphires for sure. Sharon. And the flower and colors that people they relate death to I told I said in a lot of people don't let them know that astrology was not a science. Right. But astronomy wise and so they do relate because they thought of astrology it does relate to you. What did I just say to space and to the stars and you have all kinds of things that young people are interested in but you did this first 25 years ago over the last
25 years how. I had to two it's three tier book. It started out for kindergarten. It moved on into elementary and then when I was teaching reading to junior high it moved into June. So each section relates to one level so I called them a three tier book. But I got to ask you I guess the same question that I kind of asked in the first segment and which we're going to discuss in our next segment reading is fundamental when you did this it was because the John Glenn had just done his thing and you wanted to get children interested because there was no book written about space. Has this book in the form that it's taken poetry. Have you found that it make kids makes kids interested just in reading. Well let me tell you this tell me the story I was teaching a group of elementary students mostly boys reading. Couldn't get them to come to read. I had to go get them and drag them. They were angry. What I was going into the book room and getting what I could find. Because by the time the reading specialist got into the schools Oh most of the books were
gone and we had to get into scraps and they didn't like us. They couldn't stand it. They didn't want it here. Chair is doing all the stuff that I would bring in other books. So. I wrote a poem. One of the things that I remember that I wrote. Some of them were complaining about the teacher likes girls and boys and I heard on boys the teacher girl meaning me pointing to me. So I wrote maybe I'm smart too. And then maybe I'm smart too. I put into that poem the kinds of things that they like and if the teacher would just think a little bit about those things and so they could say they are telling me something. You read my mind. That was the poem I had marked out in the whole one word in this poem jumped out at me so I got to tell you a story. I grew up in a Caribbean country a third world country called guy. Because it was a poor country. We did not have marbles when I was ill
but we had a fruit that was called the war. And after you ate the fruit after you ate the flesh of this food all the way down to the seed the seed would get very dry and the seeds were usually round. So we would eat a number of these things and with the seeds we would play a game called top. We thought it was a game that we had invented. We thought the name of the game was one that we had invented. I pick up maybe I'm smart too and I see what Dr. Malone says. I bet she's never skinny dip the swimming hole in the wall. Shot a fancy exit a a shot of fancy agat in a marble game of tall. Where did you a woman know about the marble. My brother used to play marbles and they had one way they would put. A spear. Not not not a circle but you know it and they were put marbles in the center and each one would have a shooting. That's the way the game is playing. And they knock the others out of them out of the race. Then they had another one and they called it talk.
I never thought that word escaped out of my neighborhood much that it was a real English word. Is in fact universal until I read this. So this poem was to show boys that teacher. Could relate to them too. Because it has all of the things that boys do. You called my sister up and I said Do you know what a marvelous game of toys that is. That's something you guys used to play at some point or the other and I said yes. That's something we got well then. Well it's supposed to come from Africa. That's what we had it down in Birmingham Alabama. Really. In fact we would say we lived in the outskirts in a place called Rose day. Then it became Homewood. And now it's very much had I when I was there. The kid that was one of the main games and my brother and his friends used to go out in the woods. We lived between there was a wooded area between Rosedale and Hollywood and the rich. Well I guess you call them middle class white people lived in Hollywood. Black people lived there
and then someplace in between there was a wooded area. And they found the swimming hole out there. And my brother used to go out with his friends and they were forbidden to go out there because the white kids also used it. But you know what they would do if they got there first. The white kids would let him finish and then they would go in and they'd play around. We'll see a lot of this book though has to do with you. The adult and the teacher being able to recapture childhood. In these poems you've got in a lot of ways I suspect you have to put yourself in the mind of the child. And then right. Yeah. That is having a brother who is very active I don't know what they were doing because I never shot Marvelman never I never said it did. I did. And they would go down and get frogs and all these other little things that I always like to do. And they used to get the tadpoles in a jar and bring it home. That was fun.
Today don't bring a frog near me though. What about this book seems ideal to be used in a school system is it used in school systems and finally they put it first they put it on. Well it started out as just 32 pages pre-kindergarten didn't go so well then when I began to teach the middle group. Those boys that's the group that didn't want to come to reading. So I taught chess. And I had a chess club. And when they found out I was teaching chess I got volunteers who didn't need reading. Really. So the the boys in that group operads I heard them talking the most. I'm live in Killingworth. They talked about dope. Needles marijuana smoke and snuff. And I listened in but I didn't know how to approach it so I just found it a way to talk about. And. I wrote
that poem called doing my thing. That was a phrase that we use and then I remember. And I had it all. No nose on one side that meant no Leto's no marijuana no smoke smoking no sleep. And no use some bad words to girls. And on the other side I had serendipity that's good. Looking for positive things to do. How around that was the African handshake for friendship and brotherhood. And I had a boy sitting there studying what I wanted to do studying it. Is it possible would it be possible if I asked you for you to read. Doing my thing. I would like your audience please do that. Doing my thing. Dr. mamal I'm doing my thing and I'm doing it pretty. I know who I am right down to the nitty gritty. No hang ups to bug me too involved to blow my mind. Shoot no psychedelics. Serendipity. That's
OK. Right on with my brother. No the sand around me making peace with each other so violence may flee my pads in the ghetto. My skin is black. There's door to door poverty. But my bag is no black. I'm telling it like it is cause I'm free with the right. I'm earning some pride Jack and I'm out of sight. I'm running it through the computer and keeping it clean. If the act means a bust I'm splitting this thing. I'm rapping to the weekend. It's using five letter word deleting expletive to my sisters and grooving with these people. I'm volunteering and paying my dues I'm helping young children and I'm making good news. I respect my teachers and parents. I'm polite to my peers and working diligently daily and receiving great cheers. I'm stretching my reach by stepping in I'm becoming concerned. I'm a man among
men. I'm playing it cool. I'm here where it's at. I'm going to swim dude and I'm hip. So I was doing my thing and I'm doing it pretty tight with myself right down to the nitty gritty. That's doing my thing by Dr. Malone. It comes from the book The Reluctant little astronaut which is accompanied by an activity book and it would be great for any young people out there today who you are trying to get interested in reading. Thank you very much for joining us Dr. Malone. And another thing is good for vacation time. Oh that's true. You think that it takes help for answers sometimes and some they don't have this structure stuff. That. And turn off their television set and give it to your children but don't go yet. We do have to take a short break when we come back. Reading is fun the mental. Stay with us.
Welcome back. Reading is fun it is also fundamental. Loretta Carter Haynes is the director of Washington's reading is fundamental. Our program last year of the program distributed over two hundred thousand books to over 57000 Washington schoolchildren. And she has lots to say about why a good number of our children are not learning to read. Mrs. Haynes Welcome back to evening exchange and thank you so much for having me. You're entirely welcome. Why are so many of our children not learning to read. Well I think a lot of children are not learning to read because they're not read to. Someone should read to the children whether it's the home someone in the home or someone in the school or someone in church or just wherever they are. You have to read to children when they are just in your arms when they're very young and I think that's one of the problems. How about television. Television has a lot to do with they're not getting to read for themselves. I think they're they're watching
other things. But I think when they read to and learn to read themselves it's something that it's a part of them it's their role to go anywhere in the world to read anything about anybody. And I think television has a lot to do with it. Not really. How did the reading this fundamental program get started. Well reading is fundamental started the District of Columbia almost 26 years ago and we had the urban service corps we had a lot of volunteers in the public schools who were reading tutors and there was Ms. Robert S. McNamara whose husband was secretary of defense and one of her Tuti that for a book. And so she said Well do you have any books in your home. He said No I have no books. Have you the books you've written to me. So she and a group of people from D.C. citizens for better public education and the people friends of the library PTA and all these people got together and started getting books to the children so that the children would have a book of their own to own it. And that's what they felt if a child could own a
book he would be on the right path. That was 26 years ago now in 1992. You distributed more than a hundred thousand books maybe more than 200000 books. How does that work. Where do the books come from. Who do you side how do you distribute them. Well what happens now we're a United Black fund agency and they give us money we're under the house in the public schools. And there's a grant out of the Office of Education to eradicate illiteracy in America so that we get this grant and we actually have the schools to go through catalogs and select the books that they want. We are certified. To the companies that the company send the books directly to the school and we have a team in all of our schools over 140 schools. We have a team in that school and they sit down and have fun activities and they distribute the books three times during the school years and the children get three to five books to take home and to keep and to love to read and have somebody read back to them. I got to go through that process a little slower because you lost me a little bit. You start out as a as a as
an agency of the United Black funds and receive funding from them that you have to purchase the books too. Yes. The books are purchased through various companies throughout the United States now because of the nature of your program. Do those companies offer you a discount. Oh yes. Because of all the discounts that some of them 70 percent 80 percent and that's how we get to get so many more books into the hands of the children the public good because we really bargain with the different companies and say look we need a bigger discount because we have more children deserve this year than we had last year because I used to work in a bookstore once and that the markups on books are markup and books start at 40 percent. Right. And they go up so you do in fact are able to get discounts on the tools. Then you mentioned the procedure of what takes place in the school in each school there is what there is a team the team and you issues the librarian the reading teacher or a teacher or a parent or the administrator who actually works up a fun activity and for the children and three times in the school year they have
fun motivational activities they might have you in detail what really means to you and your work. We've had actors we've had Larry Brown who have a lot of people to come in and tell us what really means to them. Then they get a book and it's just like going to a book fair but not having to pay for the books. So you get that book and that child is allowed to take that back home. They do mention three or four books during the course of a school. That's right. In this in the fall and the winter and in the spring and they go in and select the book nobody tells you what to select but you have all of these hundreds of books out and they just go through and have a wonderful time selecting which book can I have to. Can I have three or you have to come back the next time. So anyhow it's just a joy. Is this it operating at all school of elementary junior high. We start off with Head Start and go all the way through high school. I tell you why I'm asking so many questions because it seems to me that a lot of young children who are in kindergarden and preschool and who were in elementary school just loved
to read in junior high school. I've begun to notice that's where the interest seems to start falling away and very many of them by the time they get to high school the only thing they're prepared to read is a textbook that's having to do with school. How do you handle that as they get older. Well what we're doing is allowing them to select the books that they want so their teachers will go to them and you know we have the titles and whatnot of they recommend titles and they will get the books that they actually want. Dating or my all kinds of books that will do with growing up in that kind of thing. We've even had children to write their own books and then put on productions and this is how we involve the Junior Senior High School. Some of the things that they're doing to create an interest in books is just magnificent because it really needs to be done. I mean we live in a society now that is so technologically oriented that a kid can get a calculator so that they feel they don't have to learn how to do math. You can get books on audio so that you just put on a set of
earphones stick a tape and you call yourself reading. You can watch television. And so I am frankly really concerned that our young people are losing the skill of reading rather than gaining it which is why I think the rift program is so important. Have you had over the years try to change your techniques so to speak keep up with the times. Oh yes because we make it fun just like with the classics. We had an actor to come in who was a Shakespearean actor. Oh. And so the teacher said Oh the children don't like that. But when the actor turned him in two characters in the books they were able. To actually forget about themselves and children who were students who weren't even reading were being able to read the parts and just become an actor and an actress and so this is the way we do it. We try to get the students where they are
and the things that they like to do and we try to get. People to come in who can stimulate not just like one lady on The Young and The Restless. She's one of our volunteers here when she comes to town and she explains to them all about what it is to be an actress to be a television star and what you have to. She said you know I'm right in with my book on side going down the road reading my script. And she explained to them it's not easy but when you get there it makes you feel good all over. Let's try to put this in some historical perspective because I'm thinking to a time when black people were held as slaves in this country and not permitted. To learn how to read. That was punishable by law to learn how to read. People would light candles late at night in the hope that nobody saw them as they try to learn how to read this right. And we are in a situation today where there's so much available that but reading is fundamental in that story. All right what we do now our theme is reading is the road to freedom and we know that Frederick Douglass wrote a quote it was unlawful to teach a slave how to read
because it would make him unmanageable for his master. So this is our theme and we carried on and we just this helps the children to know that they have to get to have to read because it is a road to freedom for them and they can travel anywhere in the world and get anything if they enter a one time you couldn't do it. So that's why it's on me to encourage the children that one time you didn't have this opportunity take advantage of just for this little lady because she was along during those times. Are you also able to use people like I know a lot of people have used Famous Amos to use people who say. I faked it all the way to school nowadays you got people like next to a man who can say I fixed it all the way through college. And then all of a sudden I found myself as a complete grown up unable to read socializing with people who were talking about what they had read in the newspaper this morning or what they had read in some magazine or some book and it made me feel bad. Do you ever use people who are.
Yes. These are the kinds of people that we work with we work with a lot of community people in our program and we get them in and many of them can't read but we get them in all the baby books the kindergarten books and they'll look at the books and look at the stories and they can I take this book home and what happens they take it home and come back and they have people I read that book and. So we have had a lot of people who come into our program and just handling books the pretty colors and all that has turned them on to go on for a GED to go on to be a teacher aide and some of them have turned out to be teachers. We were talking you know an evening exchange the other day about what the true road to happiness is our guest was Julian Bond and he was saying that he was working registering people to vote. In the south he thinks was the happiest time of his life because one it was serving people. But just as important in order for a lot of those people to vote they had to pass a literacy test. And he said teaching those people to read and then watching
the light shining in their eyes as they learned how to read was one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. Do your volunteers often feel the same way. Oh yes we see the children as well as the volunteers. And when a child can really come up to you and say oh I can read this book and it's the same way with the volunteers when they come in and get to work and you can't get rid of them because they're so happy they're they're able you can see them blossoming out and out and they begin to read other things and that's why Reading is Fundamental we encourage the comic books and we've had a lot of young customers that oh we've had a lot of young to launch off on comic books. I told that story about my battery and that is why we said Reading is fun and we give them everything to read cookbooks. You can make a cake without a recipe. So recipes so we use everything that there is and that's why it's fun as well as fundamental with us. Do you also have the experience of opening up the newspaper one day and seeing a child graduate as
valedictorian of his or her class at Wilson or Dunbar. Some of the skill sets you have said yes we have but we have I have grandparents and mothers and fathers send me out on the street. Ms angel you still with the books. I said as long as I have breath I will put books into the hands of the children in this city. What does it take for someone. How did you become involved with it. Well I was a volunteer really into the public schools. Ms McNamara and all the other ladies. OK. And so Mrs. McNamara knew of my dedication and she appointed me to the reading this from the board. And as a parent when I was only a lay person on the board and we fell on hard times and it really wanted to close reading is fundamental down and I told over my dead body. I said a program that started in the District of Columbia that was so popular throughout the country it's in every state in every territory and that would cause them to want to close. Well because Mrs. McNamara went national right. See a lot of programs that start his District of Columbia with grass roots people die because there's not a figure a
national figure. You see so when a national figure left so that left there was a board a strong board but they were not able to do the footwork. But I was the person who happened to have been out in the field with the schools and working with the books and working with the children. And so I was just so attached to them I said no you cannot. And we struggled. I had no books at all no money. We had no money but I called all the publishing companies in the United States. They sent me a tractor truck load of 250000 books back up please Mrs. has begged first I want to know what your phone bill looks like by the time you were finished doing that. Well what we did is we wrote it McCall because the publisher is a collective. So the one the one company cause a mistake is I can give you 20000 but I said I have 150000 children. They said well look you will get the books you need. So I call the U.S. Army the secretary of the U.S. Army and said look I've got a tractor truck load
of books coming in for my children and I'm by myself. I have no one to help me download that track. You help me. So they sent me 60 Civil Air Cadets. And when that truck drove into this city it Paul junior high school. There were the cadets and they unload that tractor truck load of books and that was the international year the child 1979. Every child in the public school got books. They were the best books that were brand new books that titles you could not imagine. How did you manage to get affiliated as a fundie of the United black folks. Well it was during this juggling time when you couldn't get in the white one. So we just went away and got into that into the United Black fund. And so they saved our life with the money we got from them. And with my being able to bake the books through the period when we had no money. And that's how we were rejuvenated because I opened my book depository and ask all the people in the public to come and take the books you want. We had Martin Luther King books the best you could have we had
a Spanish book The brand new books. So by my giving them away to the school system then we became kid we had a comeback and now we have no worry about money for books. But you see there's no money for staff. That's how we evolve and that's why I was about to say how does one become a volunteer with reading this volume just called down up to 2 7 2 6 0 200 and said I'd like to be a volunteer. You can be you can sit at home on the telephone and be a volunteer. You can call the school that your books come yet. Do you have 500 books do you have a thousand books. They all say I'm sure. Then we can call the company say we need some more books for the children so they can stay at home. They can stay in their office and help us or they can go in the school nearest them and be on that team and help decorate sing shout up whatever. Could you repeat that number again please. 2 0 2 7 2 6 0 0 200. 2 0 2 7 2 6 0 200. And people can volunteer whether it is from one hour a week. They want to volunteer 40 hours and ride home entirely up to that. That is right.
And I think that's a program that more than deserves it. Let me go off on a tangent here for a second before because before the segment began you and I were talking about something that I want our viewers to know about is because Loretta Carter has does not only do the program she does a lot of reading on her own. Tell our viewers what you now have in your position. I have in my possession a complete list of all the slaves who were freed on Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia April 16th 1862. I had the complete list of the slaves their masters and how much each master was paid for for their slaves. Now you have that list. Well couple of questions. First. What made you want to see that list. Well I wanted to see this list because for the last two years I have been having Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia. I had one actual copy of a certificate of one of our slaves former slaves who were freed. And I was determined to find out how many more slaves there were. So I have a complete list now.
I just got it last week and this list includes how much beach Masto was paid by whom governed by the government the U.S. government. I'm going to be looking at this list after the show. And I know that when you come back here again this goes to Beijing they were going to have to have this list before we get to it. Yes. What does the list indicate about how the differences in payment were arrived at. Well there was a man who was a slave trader in Maryland who was hired to put a price on the head of each of these slave masters slaves. And it was there the builders stay status their age and all that had a lot to do with it and their worth. Well what are the what are the kind of sums of money that will pay. Well some of them might have been fortified some might have been hundred dollars to hundred. I've seen them as high as $600 per person $600. In today's economy we're talking 1862. Right. Six hundred dollars. Then it's probably about six hundred thousand dollars for. That's right. That is simply amazing and it is something that when we talk about emancipation day the next time
all of the slaves in the District of Columbia who were freed in 1862 we will have available for you how much each master was paid and a lot of people might be able to trace their hair. Oh I have some down there that people with their relatives on it. I knew you would. We've got to take a break but don't go away. We will be right back.
Evening Exchange
Childhood Literacy
Producing Organization
Contributing Organization
WHUT (Washington, District of Columbia)
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Episode Description
The episode includes segments about black entrepreneurs who have created a comic book publishing company, a children's author that uses poetry and subjects that would resonate with black children, and the efforts of the Reading is Fundamental organization in increasing childhood literacy. First, the Sims brothers discuss creating their publishing company, Brotherman Comics, and creating comic books featuring a black hero that focuses on social issues. They discuss how these comic books can interest black children in reading. Next, an author discusses how poetry helps develop literacy. She discusses how she chooses topics for her children's poetry that capture young readers' attention. In the final segment, the president of Reading is Fundamental (RIF) states that adults reading to their children improves childhood literacy skills. She also cites the impact that television has on reading skills.
Created Date
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Talk Show
Social Issues
Race and Ethnicity
Copyright 1992 Howard University Public TV
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Moving Image
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Director: Smith, Kwasi
Guest: Sims, Jason
Guest: Sims, David, J. A.
Guest: Malone, P Mae
Guest: Hanes, Loretta Carter
Host: Nnamdi, Kojo
Producer: Jefferson, Joia
Producing Organization: WHUT
AAPB Contributor Holdings
WHUT-TV (Howard University Television)
Identifier: (unknown)
Format: Betacam
Duration: 01:00:00
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Chicago: “Evening Exchange; Childhood Literacy,” 1992-08-24, WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “Evening Exchange; Childhood Literacy.” 1992-08-24. WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: Evening Exchange; Childhood Literacy. Boston, MA: WHUT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from