By NICK CHILES
Why don’t more black boys like to read?
That’s a question that has haunted black parents and educators for decades.
Over the years, I have deduced at least one obvious answer: Because no one is publishing books with their interests in mind.
I’m pleased to announce that I have partnered with a man who specializes in working with at-risk youth, Jefferson Jones, to create a book that I believe offers an ideal concoction of drama and excitement to appeal to the young black boy. And with an added bonus: The star of the book looks just like them.
It is called The Adventures of De’Ante Johnson: The Obsidian Knight and we wrote it as a sort of Harry Potter for the urban community. It takes place both in city streets that many black youth would recognize and also in another world that brings De’Ante far from his challenging young life—but where he discovers he’s a heroic prince who is being counted on by an entire race of people to rescue them from complete annihilation. It is a story that will instantly draw in young boys ages 10 to 16 and send them on a wild ride with The Obsidian Knight.
As the father of a young black man who is now in his twenties, as a former education reporter, and as an author who has been immersed in the publishing industry for nearly 15 years, I discovered a long time ago that the publishers in New York didn’t have much interest in publishing fictional books with black male protagonists—particularly books intended for little boys.
Several years ago, I was even contracted by children’s publisher Scholastic to work with the legendary children’s author Walter Dean Myers to produce a report on how to get more black boys to read. The report’s conclusion? Publish more books that interest them!
My co-author Jefferson Jones, who works with at-risk young boys in Ohio, said that he saw some of them reading the “Harry Potter” books, but he never saw them reading any books featuring black boys. A lightbulb came on. Jones realized that perhaps the task of creating such a book had been handed to him. He dove in and started creating a story. I was brought into the project to expand, sharpen, broaden, enhance.
We are both extremely pleased with the final result.
In an age when the flickering images on a video game screen can look and feel human, how can printed words on a white page compete for a young boy’s attention? Yeah, a book can transport you to other worlds, but a video game allows you to manipulate those worlds and bend them to your will. In other words, video games give a little boy power that a book never will.
So if a book is going to compete with all of that, if it is going to go toe-to-toe with a video game and hold its own, it better be pretty darn enticing—presenting a world that will be fascinating and thrilling to the fanciful young male mind.
I think we have created such a book in “The Adventures of De’Ante Johnson: The Obsidian Knight.”
If you are looking for a creative new fictional tale to excite the youth in your life, try this book, which is available now in paperback and eBook format on Amazon.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.