Intimate Conversation with Dr. Courtney Davis
Dr. Courtney Davis has been an avid reader since she was a young girl. As the daughter of parents who valued reading, she was surrounded with books, magazines and opportunities to create stories. She has a passion for working with students in urban areas helping them unleash their potential to become change-agents in their communities. Dr. Davis has also been a practitioner and advocate for children with disabilities and their families for more than 15 years. These experiences inspired her to create books that encourage children to read. A native of Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Davis now happily resides in Historic Anacostia. This is her first picture book. Visit her online at www.aisforanacostia.com.
BPM: What led you to become a children’s book author?
As an educator and resident of Anacostia, I worked in a local elementary school in Ward 8. While working with Pre-K and kindergarten students, I wanted to find a way to connect the class work to our community. I tried to find existing material to use with a younger audience in local libraries however nothing existed. So, like most teachers, I created the material I needed to reach my students. I wanted to ensure that the students that live and play in Ward 8 were highlighted in a positive way.
BPM: Introduce us to your book and the main characters. What makes each one special? Do you have any favorites?
This is my first book and I wanted to proudly represent my neighborhood. So often, negative messages are shared about the residents and community of Anacostia, located in Washington, DC. However, I wanted to share another perspective that highlights the positive behaviors of children and the popular places to visit. There are so many gems in the community and A is for Anacostia can be used as a map of awesome resources including the home of Frederick Douglass and the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum. At the beginning of the school year, I was a tour guide for over 40 teachers and used the book to guide us to many landmarks and popular places easily accessible to children and adults in our community. We had a ball!!
BPM: What drew you to tackle the topics in your book?
I wanted to make sure children in the community had an opportunity to see themselves in a book. Not only can they recognize peers, they are familiar with many places that are just a few steps from their home or school. It is a win-win situation as it increases the self-concept and reinforces the alphabet at the same time!! On top of that, the vibrant illustrations guarantee to bring life to each page!
BPM: Does your upbringing or life experiences inspire your writing?
Absolutely! I think Anacostia is the best kept secret in Washington, DC and I want to share it with everyone! There are so many beautiful places to visit and enjoy, including historical landmarks, a Smithsonian museum and Anacostia river. As a resident, I have the opportunity to walk or ride my bike to the same places that I introduce to fellow community members or new visitors. In addition, I have first-hand experience with some of our youngest residents and this book is my attempt to glorify their activities too.
BPM: How do you go about reaching new readers?
In the winter of 2013, I initiated a book drive to place a copy of A is for Anacostia in the hand of every Pre-K student at Ketcham Elementary School. The purpose of the book drive was to increase literacy skills and home libraries for our youngest residents. Because book lovers residing in and out of Anacostia made donations to the children, we were able to meet our goal! Copies of A is for Anacostia were signed and supplied to each student and teacher in four Pre-K classrooms.
BPM: What would you like for readers to take away from your writing?
After reading this alphabet book, I want children to be excited about learning and seeing African-American characters that look like themselves. In addition, I want them to adopt an attitude to explore their own neighborhood, and find a new activity. After a book reading, two first grade girls shared a message with me, “I want to visit Anacostia!” I can’t wait to welcome them to the neighborhood again.
BPM: What are your goals as a writer? Do you set out to educate or entertain? Illuminate a particular subject? Inspire?
Learning and having fun make an awesome combination! As a writer, I try to strike a balance to avoid preaching to kids while connecting new information to their prior knowledge. My goal is to continue to show characters that reflect students that I know and introduce educational concepts.
BPM: Share with us your latest news. How may our readers follow you online?
I invite all your readers to visit my website: www.aisforanacostia.com or the A is for Anacostia Facebook page! I regularly post upcoming reading events and appearances for both children and adults. In addition, I am excited to share that some of the characters from A is for Anacostia will be visiting a new location. They will travel to Chicago! Stay tuned as the adventure will be released in the Spring!