“Little Bremar: I am Somebody,” the debut children’s book by Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) teacher Tracy Johns, reminds children that by staying positive and self-confident, they can be successful.
By Ashlee Green
Photo: Tracy Johns, courtesy of the author
In honor of National Family Literacy Month, held each November, Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) teacher Tracy Johns is releasing her first children’s book and celebrating with a meet-and-greet this Friday at BJ’s Event Center in Marshall-Shadeland.
Johns, who works as a first-grade teacher at Pittsburgh Langley PreK-8 and in August 2020, was awarded a Teacher Appreciation Award by the Pittsburgh Pirates and PNC Bank, says her book, “Little Bremar: I am Somebody” serves as a reminder to children, especially children of color, that with a positive mindset and self-confidence, success is possible.
“It is so important for children to see melanated characters, because when you’re reading a story, you identify with that person,” says Johns. “It’s very important that kids see themselves as the doctors, teachers, and police officers in the story.”
In the book, seven-year-old Bremar—named after Johns’ sons Mark, Brandon, and Brennan—has a “Family Day” coming up at his school and each student has to prepare a speech for it. Bremar becomes so nervous to give his speech that he announces he wants to quit school, but with the help of his mother and the positive affirmation “I am Somebody,” he gets through it.
“I am Somebody” is an affirmation Johns says she came up with when she first became an educator.
“I was not comfortable with how words were being imparted to our students. I wanted to make sure that as an educator, I was imparting positive language into students,” she says.
“Building [students’] words are life or death: If you say ‘I don’t like school, I don’t like to read,’ that’s what you’ll realize. If you say ‘I am somebody,’ you’ll start to believe that and your actions will start to move towards that way.”
Available in both regular and coloring book formats, “Little Bremar: I am Somebody” is the first book in John’s “Little Bremar” series. Johns plans to explore the Black Lives Matter Movement and the COVID-19 pandemic in future books, all through Little Bremar’s seven-year-old perspective.
“I always say, ‘We have to tell the world who we are, the world cannot dictate to us who we are,’” says Johns. “There are positive messages that can come through melanated characters. Storybooks are not all of one race.”
COVID-19 precautions are in effect for this Friday’s event: Guests are required to wear masks, have their temperatures checked at the door, and social distance. Johns will be meeting with families and signing books at the event at a distance.