Education alumna writes children’s book to help close gender gap in reading

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Mercer University alumna Dr. Kimberlie Harris wrote "I Love a Good Book" to help close the reading gap between young boys and girls.

A Mercer University alumna has written a children’s book intended to help close the reading gap between young boys and girls.

“It has always been a sore point for me that boys lag behind in the data, no matter the interventions that we tried to implement,” said Dr. Kimberlie Harris, who earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the Tift College of Education in 2014. “I was of the mindset that a part of that was because we were intervening too late.”

As an elementary school teacher for 17 years, Dr. Harris noticed that boys didn’t see themselves as readers the way girls did. She wanted to help instill in them a love a reading early on, and “I Love a Good Book” was born.

The book is about a young boy who is an avid reader and all the people with whom he loves reading books.

“One of the biggest perks for me has been to see children react to the final couple of pages in the book when it’s revealed why he likes (to read) books on his own,” Dr. Harris said. “Every time the book has been read to a child, they have chuckled or had some facial response to it, so that has made me very happy.”

The self-published book was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $9,000. Dr. Harris promised contributors that the book would be available by December, but she said she hopes to have it out before then.

She already has written the second book in the series and is working on the third as well.

Pre-orders are available on her website, phrasedllc.com/shop. She also offers a 32-page coloring and activity workbook in addition to 14 pages of lessons and activities that complement the book.

“Parents at home struggling aren’t really sure of what they should do next, so there’s a little bit of that as a guide for parents,” she said.

Dr. Harris has spent most of her professional career working on literacy and writing initiatives. She currently serves as a gifted teacher at Hubbard Elementary School in Monroe County, where she’s worked for the past 10 years. Prior to that, she taught for seven years in Bibb County.

Born and raised in Jamaica, she earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Wesleyan College. As a Ph.D. student at Mercer, she wrote her dissertation on how to use culturally relevant teaching strategies to help students from different cultural backgrounds and ensure that they have the same access to learning.

Dr. Harris brought lessons learned while pursuing her Ph.D. to her writing of “I Love a Good Book.” She wanted to make the main character reflect the experiences of her readers, so the readers would see themselves in the book.

“I think that’s a huge gap in children’s literature, and it’s a part of the reason that research says that young boys, especially young multicultural boys, don’t take to reading,” she said. “It’s because they don’t see themselves in the pages.”

Mercer challenged her and gave her the confidence to be not only an educator but also an author.

“My Mercer experience showed me that you don’t have to be one or the other — that sometimes the way that you help to shape the world or make an impact is to use all your different strengths and to put them together in different ways to see what’s most impactful,” she said.

Prior to teaching, Dr. Harris worked in marketing. Today, she also maintains PHraseD LLC, her freelance writing and marketing business, and has a 5-year-old son named Kingston with her husband, Phillip.

“Everything that makes me ‘me’ has molded into this one magical moment because I was able to pull from everything I’ve done,” she said. “I was able to use the marketing side of my life, the writing side, the teacher, the passion, the mom. So everything has combined into this book.”

 

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Jennifer Falk is a digital content specialist at Mercer University. She creates and maintains written and multimedia content for primary University web pages. She collaborates with various schools and departments to ensure timely and consistent web page content is maintained. She also examines web data and analytics to drive content creation decisions.