Readability author Andrea Alexander has published six books, and proceeds from her books are donated to Glory Day Live (a nonprofit started by Alexander).
Alexander shared her favorite children’s books and the motto that brings her inspiration. Read on to find out more about one of the many authors that helps bring Readability’s stories to young readers!
Who or What inspired you to become a writer?
Several years ago when my boys were in elementary school, my oldest son really took to reading and really enjoyed it and so he did great. Then when my younger son started in elementary school, he just was not interested at all in reading. He really had a difficult time, struggled with it, just wasn’t interested in books. It really was troubling.
By the time he got to third grade, he was still having some trouble reading. Ultimately what we kind of came to realize was that he was really interested more so in sports. So my older son would be reading books at a much higher reading level and those were the ones that my younger son was interested in. There’s a four year difference between my boys, so that made a big difference in terms of reading levels and things like that. I started thinking about “what can I do to get this kid to read?” It really came down to that—trying to figure out what are some things that he’s interested in. I knew he loved sports, and he loved all the facts about the players and loved to learn about the leagues and things like that. That’s really kind of what started it.
The first book I did was on Bryce Harper. At the time, Bryce was playing for the Nats and that took off–it still does pretty well from what I understand. We did a lot of stuff with the Washington Nationals just from a promotion standpoint. It did really, really well. And then after that we did others—we did Kurt Cousins, we did Tom Brady. That one, of course, has been a number one hit. And a few others. That’s how it all started!
What is your favorite children’s story?
There are definitely some books that I liked as a child. “Where the Wild Things Are” always sticks out. I don’t even know why. It’s literally my favorite book. My mom said I would read that book over and over and over again as a child. I could probably still recite it if I tried.
I’ve actually always been prone to non-fiction, as well. So I think that’s also harder, because I think for younger kids it’s hard to find something that’s non-fiction that they’re interested in and actually at a lower reading level for them.
What is a quote or motto that brings you inspiration and motivation?
My father used to say “Nothing good comes easy.” Whenever I face a challenge, I think of him.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
My books are based on professional athletes. I look for players that are positive role models and have given back to the community.
Did your writing motivate your son, or did that have an impact at all on things?
He definitely was into it; he got into also helping me edit them. I joked around that he was like my little editor in terms of ‘hey you know what you should do…you should add this or what about this.’ He really had a lot of fun with it trying to figure out some things to add, and by the time I started doing it he was in fourth and fifth grade and so it definitely had an interest.
I noticed with the elementary schools—we went into a lot of elementary schools—and they said it’s been really helpful for some of the kids that are at a lower reading grade level. It’s nonfiction; so a lot of times what happens with kids that are in third, fourth or fifth grade that are in a lower reading level, the other kids know it. All the kids know if someone’s a strong reader or someone’s not a strong reader, and they get really self-conscious about it.
If you’re picking a book that’s about sport–if you’re picking a book that’s Tom Brady or Bryce Harper or somebody that all the kids know about–nobody thinks anything of it because it’s non-fiction, it’s an athlete, it’s somebody that they’re interested in and nobody pays attention to the “reading level” of it so to speak. The kids don’t. There’s not that stigma that I think comes with being at a lower reading level.
What do you want the audience to know about you, to make them want to read your book?
My goal is to provide a resource for kids that struggle with reading and/or have challenges finding books at their reading level on a topic they resonate with. In my son’s case, he was obsessed with sports instantly. But the non-fiction books were typically at a higher reading level, or he thought there were “too many words on the page.” I try to provide a resource for those parents in a similar situation.
Is there any advice that you would give to parents who have struggling readers?
I think one of the things is you definitely have to find something they’re interested in. I think that goes with anything really. Especially when they’re little. The thing that I think deterred a lot of times with my son is that if he was struggling with a book or a page and it had a lot of words on it, he would automatically tune out.
In my books, I’ve got a lot of images and just short graphs. There was a purpose for that; two and three and four paragraphs became very intimidating for some of the kids that are struggling with just basic words. And so they check out. It’s just like going into a massive task where you have all this stuff and it just becomes overwhelming.
I really think you can find something and start off small and you get bits and bits and bits like that and they get more into it. I do fun facts at the end of every book– it’s just short and things that they can relate to. They are just goofy little things, like the favorite color of this or favorite food or whatever it is. It’s just something that a kid can relate to and that they get, and that they’re interested in.