Holiday Helping Hands Project - Close the Gap

Over the last five years, this community has raised money for a sustainable farmer’s baby with cancer, saved a family’s house, helped a kid get a new pair of glasses, furnished a young woman’s first apartment, and put a $28,000 roof on a community center that serves hundreds of families. This year, we are going to help CLOSE THE GAP!

We asked African American school-aged kids what their favorite books were. “Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Star Wars, Captain Underpants.”

We asked them, who is your favorite black character in a book… “Um…I can’t really think of one.” “Hmm. I don’t know.” “Black character?”


The achievement gap, that is. Here’s the problem:

No matter how much money and how many reading programs we throw at literacy, we can’t seem to close the achievement gap between African American students and their peers. We are missing a piece of the puzzle, and we can see the repercussions of the GAP in our communities. Literacy is the key, but how do we help all children unlock it?

As a reading specialist, I learned that children build vocabulary and reading fluency of common sight words by DEVOURING early chapter books like Junie B. Jones, Captain Underpants, Magic Tree House, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. BUT…relatability builds motivation. In other words, we like books we see ourselves in. And, when we like to read, we read A LOT! The more you read, the better you become at reading. But, here’s what I found when I went to pick out a birthday book for my daughter’s African American friend in second grade…


Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

We did. Did you know in fact, in 2016, Black, Latino, and Native authors combined wrote just 6% of new children’s books published? This is a problem. We set out to change it so that ALL kids, especially in Mississippi, can find characters in early chapter books they can relate to. We started a team of educators, parents, writers, and illustrators called Matt Maxx. Our goal was to develop a high quality, laugh out loud chapter book series designed to entice children into the world of science, increase vocabulary and comprehension, and connect with diverse readers.


Now, we need your help to bring it to life. Join the Matt Maxx team and help us produce this series and distribute copies to every elementary school, library, and Boys & Girls Club in Mississippi (1000 copies).

Here’s what people are saying:

My granddaughter Jesi White is part of the team!

I would like to purchase a copies for my class when available!!!

This is such a need! My own 10 year old AA son (Sensitive. Smart. Funny.) rarely gets to read a book with any characters portraying the black side of him that he loves so much. Thank you!

I would love to have a copy of this book for our school! Please tell me when you release it.

Our Kickstarter Campaign Begins November 1, 2018

If you want to be sure to receive a notice when we go live, sign up here and enter your school to win a copy for every teacher.

It takes a lot of money to produce and distribute a quality book, and we wouldn’t even attempt it if we weren’t so sure it was good. How do we know? One of the most successful children’s book agents in the country was interested in having her agency represent it! But, from my experience as an author of five books I knew that getting a book represented didn’t mean selling it. We want to get these books into the hands of readers - quickly!

Each day during our campaign, we will feature local businesses who participate to make your donations go further. You can read about our Match Sponsor Program below.

In the meantime, here’s a glimpse at the project!