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By Nacole Vickery, Denise Gary and Eric Pierpoint
Photographs by Haniyyah Jones
Earlier this year we caught up with our partner, actor/author Eric Pierpoint, after his second visit to 107th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. Mr. Pierpoint and Kids Need to Read regularly team up to provide books and author visits free of charge to Title I schools in the Los Angeles area. Pierpoint’s exciting, highly engaging historical fiction for children has been extremely well-received by the recipients of his books at our partner schools!
Pierpoint volunteers his time to travel to the children at participating schools, not only bringing copies of his books but spending time reading to the students, signing copies of the books for them, and conducting a presentation that ties into the Social Studies class curriculum. Since both of his books are historical fiction as viewed by a young boy on the Oregon Trail in The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole and the Revolutionary War in The Secret Mission of William Tuck, the presentations help students understand that reading for learning and reading for pleasure can be one and the same.
This year, the focus at 107th Street Elementary was on Pierpoint’s latest novel, The Secret Mission of William Tuck. The author was kind enough to share his adventure at the school with KNTR:
When I arrived at 107th St. Elementary this past year, my second visit to this wonderful school in South Los Angeles, I was met in the parking lot by Haniyyah Jones and escorted inside. This time they had booked their main auditorium for another project, so instead of presenting THE SECRET MISSION OF WILLIAM TUCK one time for 300 4th-6th graders, I got to visit their classrooms. So, I did 5 one-hour power point/reading/Q&A presentations! Exhausting and entirely satisfying! I was led by some very polite, and enthusiastic students. We went room to room with a short break for lunch. I have to hand it to Haniyyah and all the teachers for what they are doing for these children. Inspirational messages covered the walls and blackboards. The kids all had great questions, opinions, and yes…even suggestions for me for book number 3!
107th St. Elementary is an underserved school that has very little funding for books. When I first began this cause two years ago with KNTR, I wondered how we might succeed. Denise took care of building the website for me, THE BOOK REVOLUTION, and the fund- raising began. Generous contributions came in from friends, family, and total strangers. We also promoted on social media. When we built enough to purchase hundreds of books, KNTR then went through their channels and put it out there to underserved schools that we would offer an author visit, as well as provide a book for every child. We were contacted by a number of schools including Ms. Jones of 107th Street El. After going through a selection process, KNTR then organized visits to several schools. The response from that first special day at 107th was such a positive spark. A jolt! I arrived to find hundreds of young boys and girls in their auditorium. They sat in chairs or cross- legged on the floor. The teachers stood by. On the stage were propped giant red greeting cards, signed by all the children with comments about my first book, THE LAST RIDE OF CALEB O’TOOLE. I just had to return!
And I did. I was impressed once again with the students and their curiosity about writing, research, and history. My main literary passion these days is what I call “inspirational action adventure historical fiction” that includes strong male and female characters that have to work together to overcome great odds to succeed. Of course there should also be diversity. I love creating for this age group. It is a challenge to make history entertaining, but when I got the comment from one 5th grade girl, “I read it slowly because I loved it and I didn’t want it to end!”, I was touched to the heart. Can I tell you how excited they were when asked to volunteer for a class demonstration on 18th century medicine and survival aboard a British prison ship? Hands shot up when asked to read from the Declaration Of Independence, answer questions about the Continental Army and famous Revolutionary War figures, or offer opinions about how boys and girls might have survived or escaped British spies.
When I do these school visits, probably about a hundred by now, it leaves me with a great sense of hope and pride in our school system and our country. I have had nothing but wonderful experiences. People like Haniyyah, the teachers and librarians are true heroes. And the children. I see so many eager faces and wonder where they will end up, what goals in life they may accomplish, boys and girls together, helping each other overcome great odds. The very thing I write about!
Pierpoint is passionate about bringing new books to children and encouraging them to read, especially disadvantaged kids who would not otherwise receive such inspiring opportunities. His passion has fueled two separate fundraisers benefiting Kids Need to Read. The first, The Eric Pierpoint Book Express, raised over $4,000! It was so successful that another fundraising campaign is underway, Eric Pierpoint’s Book Revolution, with over $2,000 collected to date! These funds are used to provide free books to children not only at Mr. Pierpoint’s partner presentations with KNTR but to many other Title I schools and underfunded libraries throughout the United States. Please help out with a donation to Eric Pierpoint’s Book Revolution to keep this program ongoing for children who lack access to books and authors.
Pierpoint will be visiting Phoenix area schools early next year, bringing his much-appreciated presentation to students here in the valley. We look forward to working with Eric in our own backyard, and sharing in the joy and excitement with him!
About Eric Pierpoint:
Eric Pierpoint is an award winning author of historical fiction for middle readers. His first novel, The Last Ride of Caleb O’Toole, won the MPIBA award for best children’s book. His new Revolutionary War adventure, The Secret Mission of William Tuck, has received the prized Kirkus Star Review: “The familiar events and historical figures surrounding the birth of the United States are made personal in this riveting story of one boy’s unparalleled courage. While the focus is on the bravery of the men and women who fought for independence, Pierpoint makes it clear that even an honorable war is brutal. … Richly detailed and exhilarating.”
As a professional actor, Eric has been on stage, screen, and television for years. You’ve seen him in popular films like Holes, Liar Liar, The World’s Fastest Indian, Forever Young and Transformers II. He’s also appeared in many of your favorite television shows from Parks and Recreation, Star Trek, CSI, and Hart of Dixie, to Hill Street Blues, Fame, and Alien Nation.
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