East Antioch Elementary commemorated the conclusion of Black History Month and kicked off Read Across America Week with a unique all-school storytime.
Kristy Nerstheimer, the school’s Innovation Specialist and a published author, read her first picture book aloud to all students.
Using WebEx, for students in-person and remote, she shared The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil.
The book tells the story about O’Neil’s love and kindness throughout his life, his devotion to the Negro Leagues’ success, and hurdles he overcame on and off the field.
Each time students saw the red KC heart depicted on O’Neil’s jersey, students listening remotely were encouraged to hit a heart emoji as they listened. The red KC heart originated on the 1942 Kansas City Monarch’s jersey.
The reading gave students a chance to not only hear the story, but also learn about college and career potential from a published author. Nerstheimer held a question and answer session after reading the book.
Students’ most popular questions were ‘Why did you write a book about Buck?’ and ‘How did you write the book?’.
“I was fortunate enough to get to see Buck in person many years ago and became an instant fan,” Nerstheimer shared. “As a teacher, there have often been times I have wanted to share his story with my students but there wasn’t a picture book about him.”
When Nerstheimer got the opportunity to take a nonfiction picture book writing intensive course through Park University and The Little Fig Publishing. When she applied she submitted an idea to write a picture book about Buck. The process took about 2 years.
The actual writing of the story took about three months, but editing, collaboration , and research took more time. Buck O’Neil’s niece, Dr. Angela Terry, also contributed to the book by writing the dedication and providing input in the writing of the story.
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum provided input and endorsed the story.
All Shawnee Mission School District elementary libraries received a signed copy of the book. Read Across America focuses on motivating children to read and is celebrated this year on March 2.