Local mother/son publish second inspirational Jamaican-American children's book

FLINT, Michigan — Sitting with Shani and Ande Womack, their rich roots and invaluable knowledge in storytelling left me inspired and eager to read their second published book, 'Anancy and Why Groundhog is Afraid of His Shadow' — their first book is titled, 'Anancy and Why the Sea is Salty.'

“We want to do three [books] together before he’s grown and gone,” Shani mentioned jokingly. The room was filled with laughter, history, vulnerability, and affirmations. The mother-son duo are still on a whimsical high from numerous interviews to promote their book.

After persevering through the adversity of dyslexia, it was imperative for Ande to show the world that anything is possible. He is now reveling in the full circle moment of becoming a published author after such a tumultuous relationship with reading.

Growing up, he knew how to read, but because of his learning disability, he wanted to avoid reading at all costs.

Daringly, his mother was determined to change his overall view of reading. She told him and his older brothers folktales passed down from generations and even recited some of them to Ande’s fellow classmates when he was in the 5th grade. It was then that he found a new appreciation for reading which led him to this point.

With so much poise and joy, Shani mentions how she has her dream job as the modern-day griot expounds on all the projects she’s a part of. Her devotion to teaching literacy worldwide, especially in Flint has helped children and adults.

The illiteracy in our community is being treated aggressively through storytelling, music, and her out-of-school time program called Literacy Matters.

“Doing this with my mom makes me less nervous; it feels more natural.” - Ande Womack Flintside: What’s it like being a storyteller and being able to publish two books together? 

Shani Womack: “I’m excited that I have a son that’s interested. My other sons liked the stories and everything, but they just hadn’t shown that deep of an interest to want to write their [own] stories. Ande has a great imagination and has always been interested in [my] stories, Marvel comics, and Greek mythology. A lot of that comes from African mythology, truth be told.”

Flintside: Ande, you’re a published author and artist. What else do you do?

Ande Womack: “I’m a soccer player. I play for [Grand Blanc High School] and club soccer for The Detroit City Football Club.”

Flintside: Did you tell stories to your children when they were babies to calm them down?

Shani Womack: “Oh, when somebody’s crying, you can’t tell a story too much. You have to sing. My oldest son would not sleep unless you held him in your arms, and the minute you lay him down, he’d scream. So, yeah, I wasn’t in the storytelling mood. I didn’t start telling them stories until they were old enough to read. I took them to the library and read to them at night [and] that became like our routine.” 
Ande and Shani Womack.
Flintside: Shani, what is next for you? Is there anything more you want to do?

Shani Womack: “Oh, well, I am doing what I want to do. I loved telling stories and singing. Because of my son having dyslexia, I became passionate about literacy. I found out about the power of storytelling and how [it] helps students improve their reading comprehension, vocabulary, ability to listen, engagement, and memory.

It also helps them to become better writers themselves. So I go out and perform, write books with my son here, and do a literacy program [Literacy Matters] after school and during the summers. That uses storytelling as a way to help students improve their own reading and writing abilities.”

Flintside: What is your ministry?

Ande Womack: “[I want to] inspire younger kids. Show them that, no matter what, they can do whatever they want. God is always with them.” 

Shani Womack: “If you read well, nothing can stop you from being successful; that's our why!” I have a quote I live by: ‘Little is much when you put it in God’s hands.’” 

For more information on Shani Womack and Literacy Matters, you can visit her website and Facebook. And stay up to date on Ande Womack through his Instagram.
'Anancy and Why Groundhog is Afraid of His Shadow' is available on Amazon.
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