Visiting Innovator Kwame Alexander Inspires Students with Literature

Award-winning author Kwame Alexander visited The Steward School as part of its Visiting Innovator program.

On the morning of Wednesday, February 7, The Steward School’s Lora M. Robins Theatre was exploding with music, poetry, and storytelling.

In fact, these are key themes that define the life mission of Kwame Alexander, a Newbery Medal Award winner and New York Times bestselling author. As Steward’s winter Visiting Innovator, Mr. Alexander shared his creativity with the community and encouraged students to pursue their unique passions.

Mr. Alexander’s array of books explore themes of self-discovery for young people, all through the lenses of sports, music, friendship, race, and culture. He is the author of Solo, The Crossover, and 22 other books for young readers, many of which are available in our own school libraries. His next work, Rebound, is set to come out this April.

As he spoke to more than 800 students, parents, faculty, staff, and Richmond community members, Mr. Alexander (with musical accompaniment by guitarist and fellow educator Randy Preston) shared his lifelong love affair with poetry through rap, song, and lively readings from his books. He said his interest in literature began with a humorous Mother’s Day poem he wrote as a child and continued into his college years at Virginia Tech, where he studied under famed poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni.

“It was very exciting and empowering,” Mr. Alexander said. “So after college, I began to think of [writing] as more than just something that I could do to share my thoughts about the world, but I might actually be able to make a living from it.

He also shared his personal struggles and eventual triumphs throughout his career as an author—Mr. Alexander’s acclaimed novel The Crossover, which tells a story entirely through verse of two brothers with a shared love of basketball, was rejected more than a dozen times before getting published and eventually winning him the 2015 Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award Honor.

Director of the Bryan Innovation Lab Cary Jamieson said Mr. Alexander was selected as a Visiting Innovator because he not only encourages young people to love reading, he “empowers young people to share their voices. He talks about how much it takes to be able to accomplish something and to never give up, and [the idea] that if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.”

In regards to his thoughts on how to impact children, Mr. Alexander said: “Last year, I visited 177 schools. From what I can tell, all kids … are curious and smart. They want to want to read. They want us to give them something that’s going to engage them and excite them; intelligent entertainment. The Steward School is an example of [a place where] teachers believe that … we have to give [children] what they need to be able to ‘cross over’ and appreciate reading.”

Mr. Alexander’s visit included book signings where attendees could purchase his work. Click here to see photos from the event, and click here to learn more about Mr. Alexander and his career.

 

Steward Voices

Steward is an atmosphere that fosters confidence—something we have seen in all three of our kids. Whether it is playing a new sport, running for a seat on the Honor Council, or singing a solo on Talent Night, they have been encouraged to try, to experience, and to grow.
- Dan and Kathi Campbell, Parents of Abbie ’19, Emma ’17, and Ben ’14

Steward Voices

Steward is the right place for Micah and Kiri because they are able to develop strong connections with their teachers, which in turn facilitates confidence and resilience in their learning. Everyone at Steward knows your name and makes you feel so welcome.
- Paul and Janet Yoon, Parents of Kiri ’27 and Micah ’26

Steward Voices

Steward helped me develop the skills I needed to succeed in college and the courage and confidence to set competitive career goals for myself. But, these skills weren’t lessons I learned just in Steward’s classrooms; they came from the athletic fields, in the hallways, and during Honor Council meetings, too.
- Grace Henderson ’10

Steward Voices

Steward provides Andrew with a nurturing environment which fosters his individualism, develops exemplary character traits, and continuously provides him with creative learning experiences. Consequently, Andrew ‘loves’ school and anticipates each day with joy, enthusiasm, and excitement.
- Betsy Jollay, Grandmother of Andrew O’Leary ’25

Steward Voices

I love all that The Steward School has done for Trace. Steward has uncovered Trace’s talents, celebrated his individuality, and strengthened his belief in himself. The faculty and staff offer an amazing balance of challenge and comfort, encouraging the best from all students. I can’t imagine Trace being anywhere else. Thank you, Steward School.
- Ron Coles, Father of Trace Coles ’19 and Grade 5 Teacher

Steward Voices

Being a member of The Steward School international program has been an awesome experience. The community has helped me tremendously along the way.
- Bowen Chen ’15

 

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