Karl "KC" Christon is on a mission to wipe out illiteracy.
He carries around a Clark County School District printout of middle school students who read at a fourth-grade level or lower. Nevada’s statistic is staggering: 35 percent.
He grew up on the south side of Chicago and draws from those experiences for writing his children’s books.
He said he was one of those kids who’d see something happen and think, " ‘You know, what would have been funny, or what would have been cool, would be if the guy had walked around the corner and said …’ That kind of stuff. So I could paint a whole scenario over something I saw, and everybody was like, ‘You should write, you should write.’ "
He jotted down ideas and wrote short stories, but they didn’t go anywhere. Fast-forward to him wanting to make writing a career, and he leaned toward crime-drama, but then, he said, "I realized I really wanted my work to mean something. I really wanted to feel good at night."
Christon, a Summerlin-area resident, researched children’s books and discovered how deplorable literary rates were in America.
Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice website, justice.gov, said, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." It also reported that more than 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level.
His idea was to get children in the habit of reading early so it stays with them for the rest of their lives.
Christon has two books out right now – "Hang’n with Kasey: My Cousin & Me" and "Hang’n with Kasey: I Visit the Zoo." He has 15 others being readied on the sidelines. Topics include stories with which many children can identify – the family barbecue, the first day of school, going to the zoo, playing ball at the park and getting a new bike.
One mentions how people have to take care of the environment so the polar bear doesn’t despair.
"Now, I know very well that a 6-year-old doesn’t know what the word ‘despair’ means," Christon said. "So, I want the child to ask the parent, ‘Mommy, what does "despair" mean?’ I want to get the parents involved."
Another way to get parents involved is with the illustrations. They intentionally depict old television sets and first-generation video games. Why? So the parent is drawn in.
"They go, ‘I remember the time’ and maybe they spend 30 or 40 minutes talking with their child," Christon said.
Ricky Scott, a longtime friend of Christon’s and also a Summerlin-area resident, is the illustrator. They began looking at doing the books together about three years ago.
"We have the same vision … from the start, he told me he wanted it to be situations kids could relate to but not be too realistic … it’s all for the kids … (you’ve got to) show them that there are other things besides rap music," Scott said.
Christon goes into schools to read his books to children. Diana Crawford is the librarian at Triggs Elementary School, 4470 W. Rome Blvd. in North Las Vegas, and said Christon had a good approach to the written word with a good cadence in a lyrical way.
"Now he’s like a rock star with three of our kindergarten classes," she said. "He comes on property, and they all go crazy … We love to have people who create books come and share their craft, and he’s the perfect guy for that."
It’s not just the children who connect with him. For Nevada Reading Week, he was part of family reading night, which saw groups of people going from room to room.
"It was hard to get everybody out of the library for the next rotation because people wanted to (talk to) him after his presentation," she said.
Christon uses an on-demand printer with drop-ship capabilities. His books are available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, as well as from his own website, hanginwithkasey.com.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-2949.Karl “KC” Christon
To find out more about children’s author Karl “KC” Christon’s work, visit hanginwithkasey.com/a>.