Literacy as the goal, alum giving book to every alma mater preK-1st grade student

EDWARDSVILLE — New author Kevin Rader, who wrote “What’s That?,” a children’s book inspired by his 5-year-old daughter, teamed up with his fellow Roxana High alumni, to give all of the district’s youngest students a copy of his book .

“What’s That?,” illustrated by artist Tim Gusewelle, of Bethalto, is inspired by the wonder and imagination of children, when they constantly ask the same question, “What’s that?” Rader, with the help of other RHS graduates, is giving away copies of the book to students in preK through first grade throughout the district. That’s about 360 books.

“Right now we’re halfway to that goal,” Rader said, “Fifty-four alumni having pitched in already.”

Currently copies of the book are being purchased by alumni at the wholesale rate, and collected for a giveaway to the students at an assembly or on a class-by-class basis, to make sure every child in those grades can get a book.

“I got this idea to give back to the school district that taught me from kindergarten through high school, by giving away my children’s book,” said Rader, a third generation RHS graduate in the Rader family.

“I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I put out a call on Facebook to other Roxana alums to donate books for this cause.”

So far, generations of Roxana alumni have come together in one of the biggest collaborative efforts in which Rader has been involved, he said.

“Nearly 100 books were donated in only one day from folks from the class of ’68 all the way to recent grads,” he said. “All this so children can have access to literature, thanks to those who have been through those halls before .”

At its core “What’s That?” is an exploration of the world through a child’s innocent eyes and a celebration of imagination with a challenge to appreciate and transform the ordinary at its essence, Rader said.

This is the first of more planned books, which Rader is self-publishing.

During a March Kickstarter campaign, Rader promised to give 10% of all pledged project money within the campaign’s first 48 hours to Partners for Pets. The Kickstarter effort raised the money needed to make the book a reality, based on people’s giving, and enough to sponsor an animal’s adoption fee.

For every copy of “What’s That?” sold through this month, $5 will go to Catty Shack, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit no-kill, cage-free cat rescue in Hamel.

Rader will continue to collaborate with Gusewelle, expanding children’s title offerings in varying degrees for different ages. “What’s That?” published this summer. Afterwords Books, 441 E. Vandalia St., in Edwardsville, was the first store in the country to carry the book. It will be available at at least 20 other independent bookstores around the country, but not at Amazon and corporate bookstores.

“I want to support indie bookstores, brick-and-mortars and small businesses,” Rader said.

Find more information about the book “What’s That?” at the book’s Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as at www.kevinraderbooks.com. Email [email protected] to purchase the book for the Roxana students.

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