When I first asked Dr. Jean if I can interview him for my blog, I asked because, after reading the timely lyrics he posts to his Facebook page, I thought someone who uses words so powerfully and beautifully should be featured on a literacy blog. While I wanted to highlight Dr. Jean’s literacy genesis, his talents as a poet, and as someone who promotes literacy, I discovered someone with a much more powerful message than simply, “read 20 minutes a day.”
Dr. Jean not only promotes the belief that words travel, as evidenced by the organization he founded Wordstravel, but he has experienced this belief as he has traveled around the country performing his poetry. Most interestingly, his words have traveled all the way to Ghana, where the Ghana Knowledge Tree Leadership Academy is building a library and naming it “The Wordstravel Library” after Dr. Jean’s movement. Finally, through Dr. Jean, I am not only providing you a profile of a successful literary professional to look up to, but also a resource. See his response when I asked him what advice he has for struggling readers.
Please take the time to read how Dr. Daniel Jean got his literacy start and what steps you can take to become an engaged reader and writer who positively impacts the world around you:
LWL: Who introduced you to reading?
DJ: I was introduced to reading by my older siblings who would read everything from books to cereal box labels. While I didn’t read with them, I saw them reading and perceived the value.
LWL: When did you start to like to read independently?
DJ: I struggled with reading comprehension until my eighth grade teacher Mrs. Richardson worked with me to focus better, underline key concepts and learn how to make the words come to life!
LWL: Did you prefer fiction or non fiction?
DJ: I prefer to read non fiction.
LWL: What were your favorite stories?
DJ: My favorite stories are true stories of individuals overcoming adversity. Soul on Ice and the autobiography of Malcolm X. Both stories highlighted how injustices and hatred can be overcome.
LWL: Who were your favorite authors?
DJ: I have so many. Edwidge Danticat is on of my favs and many of her stories are about my Haiti, my birthplace.
LWL: Where would you go to read?
DJ: I need to read in a quiet space.
LWL: Did you go to the library a lot?
DJ: They had a mobile library called the “Book Mobile” that would share books. I also frequent the library.
LWL: Did you have a lot of friends that you liked to read with?
DJ: I’ve never read with others.
LWL: Was reading something that was promoted in your community?
DJ: Reading was promoted by my community [which I define as my siblings and a few key teachers] but I met teachers who emphasized the importance of reading.
LWL: What motivated you to continue to read on your own, outside of school assignments?
DJ: I enjoyed reading and began writing poetry at a very early age. I have authored a play entitled “Til Death Do Us Part?” and an anthology titled, “Wordstravel”.
LWL: Who introduced you to writing?
DJ: My Siblings.
LWL: When did you start writing?
DJ: I have written poetry since my pre-teen years. My entire movement is based on the power of the word.
LWL: How did you use writing as a tool? (Diary, write stories, etc.)
DJ: I wrote poems for all occasions, parties, female friends, to address an injustice. I live by Ephesians 4:29 [ Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. -Biblegateway.com]
LWL: Where did you used to go to write when you were a kid?
DJ: I would write anywhere and on anything.
LWL: What motivated you to continue to write on your own, outside of school assignments? Where do you go to write now?
DJ: I write to empower and express myself. I like to write on my apple products now (laughs)
LWL: What other ways do you express yourself artistically?
DJ: I make music, perform poetry, and utilize it all during my interactive empowerment. Swagger Seminars.
LWL: How, do you think, your passion for reading and writing impacted where you are today?
DJ: Effective communication is the key to personal and professional success. Reading and writing are essential to communication.
LWL: What advice would you have for a reluctant reader?
DJ: I would encourage them to read things they enjoy….also if they struggle with reading comprehension to contact me at wordstravel.org for assistance and encouragement.
LWL: What advice do you have for a struggling writer?
LWL: How would you respond to the statement: “Books are a stupid waste of time, and so is writing about what you read in books.”
DJ: I would love to meet the person who said that to help them fall in love with reading/writing like I have!
As you can see, Dr. Jean isn’t your ordinary literacy advocate. He has given us his literary story, offered help for those who need it, recommended a Haitian author to look into, made a clear correlation as to why reading and writing is important and, in not so many words, showed that reading about over-coming injustice and hatred is the first step to over-coming injustice and hatred. If you want to learn more about Dr. Jean, please visit his website www.wordstravel.org.