Children’s author shares the magic of reading

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children’s book author whose mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery. She is a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf blog (, which turns 10 this year.

Recommended read: Living with Purpose an Activists Guide to Listening, Learning and Leading” by Dorothy I. Height. For nearly a century, civil rights legend Dr. Dorothy I. Height dedicated herself to being an agent of change. Her important book encourages people to look inside and follow their calling while lifting others. I loved reading about how she fought against injustice and always found a way to serve. In this uncertain world, her book offers inspiration, hope and direction.

Currently reading:Along This Way” by James Weldon Johnson.

Who or what taught you to love to read? My mom surrounded my brother and me with creativity. She would take us to children’s theater, make up bedtime tales. Trips to Carnegie Library were magic. Every book Mom read to me and I read on my own sent me on an adventure. I never wanted that feeling to end.

What favorite book from childhood have you kept? I just have one of my books from childhood – a well-loved thesaurus my grandma gave me. But I have kept “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor in my heart. That was the first children’s book I saw that featured an African-American girl on the cover. Right away, I knew that was a book I had to read. Seeing a girl who looked like me as the main character of a story opened my mind to what I could be. That book helped to ignite my dream of being an author. I want all kids to see books that reflect their lives, dreams and history. I want kids to write the stories only they can tell and know they matter.

What is your favorite reading memory? It’s tough to pick a favorite. One is sitting snuggled up behind my bedroom door with my feet warmed by the radiator grate. I would fly from my Pittsburgh home into new worlds, losing and finding myself over and over in the pages of books. Another is sharing my stories with my granddad. As a kid, I would call him on the phone and read what I wrote. He would playfully accuse me of fooling him. No way could I have written something like that. I would laugh and say, “Yes, sir. I did, Granddad. I wrote it.” His encouragement and that of my family inspired me to keep writing. A final special memory is watching my children’s joy in reading bloom. My daughter read “Raising Dragons” by Jerdine Nolen so much she knew passages by heart. My son requested “Max and the Tag-Along Moon” by Floyd Cooper as his bedtime story again and again. Every time I see those books, I smile.

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Living with Purpose: An Activist’s Guide to Listening, Learning and Leading

Dorothy I. Height

Dorothy I. Height Education Foundation, 113 pages