While former NFL player Wade Smith will forever live in Houston history as the first offensive lineman to score a touchdown for the Texans, the retired Pro Bowler is pushing a new goal: childhood literacy.
In his second children’s book, Smitty Tackles Bullying (available Sept 1; Bright Sky Press), Smith channels reading advocacy, a cause near and dear to him and his nonprofit outreach organization, the Wade Smith Foundation.
“The reason literacy is a big focus for me is because reading is something I loved to do as a kid, and I want to share that passion with the next generation of readers,” says Smith, who cites The Indian in the Cupboard and The Hardy Boys series as some of his favorite page turners as a child. “Before I had a love for sports and football, I loved reading.”
Smitty Tackles Bullying follows a young student named Smitty, loosely based by Smith, who loves to read out loud in school. But when his buddy Luke struggles with reading and gets bullied by his classmates, Smitty encourages his friend to ask for help, as well as his classmates to help and empower, rather than mock, Luke.
“I loved to read aloud in class like Smitty, but some of my friends would avoid it by getting into trouble. At the time, I thought they were just being jokesters, but now I know that they struggled with reading because of learning disabilities. Today, some of those childhood friends are in jail or in dead-end situations because they never learned. I wish I would have had the insight at the time and helped them.”
Smith shares that when he goes to schools for his foundation’s “Reading With the Pros” events, which have reached more than 40,000 elementary-aged students and public library visitors, he encourages kids to support—not bully—each other in the classroom.
“If a student is a good reader, that’s awesome—help someone who isn't," he shares. "If a student is struggling with reading, that’s okay too—ask for help from a teacher or friend.”
Smith will sign copies of Smitty Tackles Bullying tonight at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations. All of book proceeds will go to the Wade Smith Foundation, which provides youth and community programs in childhood literacy and education and an annual scholarship program, which has given more than $130,000 in scholarships to students.