When he decided to write a book, he did about 30 drafts of “It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw.” It’s a true story of a man, born into slavery, who became a renowned folk artist. Then he showed it to a published author, who loved it, and told him it needed to be rewritten. That happened twice more. But every time he rewrote it, the book got better, Tate said. A published book doesn’t just happen.
When it was published, it was a success and won awards.
His book on the strongman Sandow, considered the father of modern body building, was also based on fact as well as the author’s personal experience. As an adult, Tate decided to take up body building, and despite early disappointment, he went on to win trophies.
Tim Murnen, BGSU faculty member coordinating the event, said bringing in Tate was a bit of a risk. He doesn’t have the name recognition of past guest authors. But he took a different path to a career in children’s literature. He went to a trade school for high school and then community college. It was a story he shared Friday with students at Penta Career Center.
Murnen does literacy research and outreach. Literacy in the park is a keynote event for those outreach efforts, but it is not sufficient. The event is meant to send ripples throughout Northwest Ohio and promote programs throughout the year.
One such program is Books4Buddies (Books4buddies.com).
The Holland-based endeavor was founded in 2012 by Laneta Goings and her grandson. He, like many boys, had problems with literacy. Every night he had to do his homework and read. “Literacy seems to be a problem especially with boys,” she said. “We spend a lot of time trying to encourage boys to read.”
They do that by recruiting young high school age men to help collect and distribute “gently used” books.
The effort has distributed more than 50,000 books.
The Books for Buddies ambassadors have come from local neighborhoods, but also from Ghana, Senegal, and Pakistan, and those ambassadors want to bring that effort to their countries.
The 25 ambassadors, she said, consider themselves “a brotherhood.”
Literacy in the Park is a good event for the effort. They understand they “are blessed” to be able to share with others what they have benefited from.
For all the good intentions and serious purpose behind the day, it is about having fun, whether with Play-Doh or finding the hidden sugar in foods.
Joe Rosansky was there with his daughter Teagan, who is, she indicated, four-fingers old.
This is the second year the family has participated. “Our daughter really likes it,” Teagan’s dad said. “She likes the books and all the activities.”
Teagan reports she likes, after a long pause, “the flowers.” Those flowers were lining the front of the stage.
And when Tate opened the floor up to questions after his presentation, the first question was: “Where’d you get the flowers?
Bostdorff’s, Murnen said from off-stage.
That’s just the kind of detail a young Don Tate would have liked. The kind of attention to detail that can blossom in so many ways.