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Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading Rainbow's Passport Around The World Through Books


by Eddie Brown (special to Conversations Magazine)

Reading Rainbow had, and still has a tremendous effect on me.

I grew up in an African-American, middle-middle class family and usually summer travel was expected. However, there were occasions where our travel was limited to places family lived: Nashville, Chicago, Detroit.

Watching Reading Rainbow, especially the segment where kids would give summaries of their books, allowed me to "travel" to places and meet people I'd never met before, like China, West Africa, and Australia.

In the elementary school I attended, (North Jackson Elementary, Jackson, MS) our student body was entirely black. Our librarian made sure to reinforce our confidence by reading to us books with African-centric themes or characters. I remember suggesting that we should read "Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ear" by Verna Aardema during our daily story-time. My librarian was very impressed. She asked, "How did you learn about that book?" I told her "I read it on Reading Rainbow."

Finally, as far as I can remember, my consumption of books (as a child) was somewhat based on awards or critiques. Reading Rainbow would typically note if a book received a Caldecott Medal. So, whenever I'd go to the public library in the summer, I'd ask the librarian, "Now, did this book receive a Caldecott?" as if I were some type of 8 year-old literary pro.

Interestingly, I've pursued a profession where reading and storytelling is what I'm paid to do for clients or to stay ahead in my industry. Even now, as an adult, if I need to escape reality, I'll "travel" to Europe or somewhere.

What do I pay in airfare? $12.99 or whatever Barnes and Noble usually charges for a best-seller.

Eddie Brown, Jr. is the owner of Brown Public Relations, LLC. You can follow him on Twitter at @EddieBrownPR.

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