Dr. Kaywell and Author Coe Booth Highlight Day 3
"My childhood has given me every reason to be a raving lunatic and I've always wondered why I've never done that," she shared.
The answer? Among other outlets, books. And Kaywell has dedicated her life and career to putting the right books at the right child's disposal. Without healthy ways of coping and working through the pain, many kids turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms including violence, sex and substance abuse. Kaywell stressed that literacy is a major component of aiding youth in their struggles.
"Language is everything. If you don't have words, you feel pretty lost. If you DO have the words, you can make your world bigger," she told attendees. "Research shows that it takes just one adult in every kid's life to make a difference. So I'm looking at all of you. Guess who's that one adult? Every single one of you."
She closed by reminding all the educators and librarians in attendance that they are often on the front lines in the battle to rescue troubled youth from their circumstance and themselves.
"Teachers and authors are often the unsung heroes of children on the brink of destruction. You guys are the ones who make a difference," she told the audience. "Always remember this: There is hope in a book. You've got to put the books in these kids' hands. You are The One."
Later, during her afternoon keynote, celebrated author Coe Booth read from her novels Tyrell and Bronxwood and shared her lifelong love of writing with attendees.
"I was a writer before I was a reader," she shared. "I was always getting in trouble at school for writing stories during math or science."
"As a kid, I wanted to write so much because I didn't see books about me. I wanted to read books about people like me and at that time, there just weren't a lot of books about black people."
The literature that did feature black characters were stereotypical in character depth and scope.
"There were no interesting or dynamic black characters," Booth said. "They were always either slaves or sharecroppers. The black books were about sadness, oppression or victimhood. I wanted adventure and fantasy. So I started writing my little stories about what I wish existed."
Now she is making sure that this sort of literature exists for kids. After graduating college, Booth worked for several years as a social worker in some of the Bronx's roughest schools and neighborhoods before working on her first novel. She draws much of her inspiration for her characters from those experiences.
For more info on Booth's work, visit her blog.
Follow her on Twitter at @CoeBooth.