Christle Reed wants Kansas City’s next wave of potential business builders to know that they don’t need to be tied to a traditional storyline for wealth and happiness, the entrepreneur-turned-author shared. His new children’s book about more than a dozen local entrepreneurs could help rewrite that narrative.
“College isn’t the only path to success for kids,” he explained, noting his generation and many who came before were fed the line that the only path to progress was through higher education. .
“And now as a 35-year-old woman who has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I know that’s not true,” Reed said. “So we just want to make sure our kids are exposed to different avenues of success and then figure out for themselves what they want to do, not just what society tells them.”
This sentiment is at the heart of Reed’s latest children’s book, “I Can Be Me In KC,” which was co-written with Turn the Page KC and features 13 local professionals and their careers in Kansas City. The book — which features a clothing designer, two bakers, a KC Current doorman, a dog groomer, a muralist, two farmers, a pediatrician and a real estate attorney — is scheduled to be distributed to sellers on February 27. A launch party is scheduled from 5-7pm on March 3 at MADE MOBB, whose co-founder Mark Launiu is featured in the book.
At the end of the book, a QR code is set up to lead readers to a page featuring interviews with all the professionals on their career journeys, Reed noted. A classroom curriculum should accompany the book for teachers, she added.
“It really gives kids a blueprint: How to find what they want to do,” Reed continued. “And it really sheds light on Kansas City being this place of growth – being this place of prosperity – where whatever you like, you can try it here in Kansas City. I think it turned out to be a really, really cool project.
Levi Hoffmeier illustrated the book – which was a year-long process – and Adri Guyer coordinated the photo and video interviews.
“I Can Be Me In KC” will be available at all Made in KC locations and the new airport’s Turn the Page KC store – where a grand opening celebration is planned for February 28 – as well as many of the professionals featured in the book lo will make available at their activities.
Reed is also talking to other sellers about bringing the book, he said. Related T-shirts and stuffed animals, which look like the dog in the book, will also be available.
Proceeds from the book and associated merchandise will benefit Turn the Page. Reed worked with its executive director, Dr. Kristin Droege, at Citizens of the World Charter School.
“They’re really, really big at narrowing the literacy gap,” Reed explained. “You have that lull in the summer when the kids are out for two or three months and test scores plummet. They try to work against that, and they also try to work with under-resourced communities, where maybe literature resembling them hasn’t been presented. So maybe they’re not interested – which is why we wanted to write this book – or it’s not about topics that interest them.
While she was director of communications at Citizens of the World during the pandemic, Reed organized a project called Citizens Connect. On Tuesday nights on Zoom, students heard from a community member about their profession and how they got there.
“When (Droege) left Citizens of the World and moved to Turn the Page KC, she remembered that and wanted to do something that emulated it, but taught kids about different professions and things they could achieve,” Reed said on the inspiration of the book and the link with the organization.
Reed’s first book – “Hugs from Heaven” – is about helping children navigate their way through grief, inspired by the loss of his father at age 11. She said she has spent the past two years promoting that book, as well as forming support groups for children and online forums for parents who are navigating the life-changing waters of loss.
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“‘Hugs from the Sky’ is pretty sad,” she shared. “Nobody is excited to talk about it. No one is excited to talk about bereaved children. So it’s nice to have a book (“I Can Be Me In KC”) that I can now promote with a smile on my face. But the first book is still very important. It is still a very vital tool that I will always promote. But it’s nice to have a happy book that I can promote even then.
Promoting positive opportunities in his hometown also brings joy to Reed, he said.
“Not sure if this is all over Kansas City — or maybe it’s just in African American culture? I don’t know, but here in Kansas City there’s been this crab-in-the-barrel mentality where you feel like you can’t do it,” she explained. “You feel like there are blockers, or it feels like the moment you try, someone is pulling you down. This is kind of what I was taught as a kid – like you can’t do anything here because people won’t let you. It has never been like this for me. Everything I’ve done here in the city, I’ve had nothing but support. So it was nice to say, “Yes, Kansas City is a place where you can do absolutely anything you want and you’ll have success and support.” Because that’s just the kind of city we have.