Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Reading for Our Lives turns 1 today! And bringing this parenting book to the world has been my greatest professional accomplishment so far. It took years of research, interviews, and synthesis to get it into print. The writing itself was a bear, but so was navigating the publishing industry to find a great agent, secure a book deal, and launch—all during a pandemic. 

Twelve months into my life as a published author, I’m proud to report that I made 38 speaking appearances and earned more than 100 media features related to the book, including a segment on CBS Mornings and an OpEd in TIME. The book has reached more than 5,000 parents, caregivers, teachers, and literacy advocates and garnered numerous 5-star reviews.

But don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of mishaps on my author journey as well. One low light was traveling 1,000 miles to a book signing where the conference bookseller forgot to order my book. Yes, seriously. Astounded, angry, and hurt, I had to muster all of my professionalism and poise to salvage what I could of that disastrous trip. I had to quiet my wounded ego and use my time on site to connect with prospective partners and reconnect with existing ones. Most importantly, I had to remind myself of why I do this work in the first place. My mission is not to sell books—that’s just a means to an end—but to send a message about our national literacy crisis and the responsibility we all share to reverse it. 

With or without a book in hand, I want to help people understand the costs of allowing millions of kids to graduate high school without the literacy they need to thrive in the modern, global workforce. I want to connect the dots between low literacy and unemployment, homelessness, chronic health issues, incarceration, and so many other problems we face. I want to spur more parents to own their roles as children’s first teachers, vocabulary builders, and educational advocates.

Someone once said that we overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten. I feel that in my bones. So here’s to celebrating year one wins—knowing that there’s much, much more to come!