Literacy as the goal, alum giving book to every alma mater preK-1st grade student

EDWARDSVILLE — New author Kevin Rader, who wrote his 5-year-old daughter-inspired children’s book What’s That?, has teamed up with his classmates at Roxana High to give every youngest student in the district a copy of his book.

‘What’s That?’, illustrated by Bethalto artist Tim Gusewelle, is inspired by the wonder and imagination of children when they keep asking the same question, ‘What’s that?’. Rader, with the help of fellow RHS graduates, gives away copies of the book to preschool through first grade students across the district. That’s about 360 books.

“Right now, we’re halfway to that goal,” Rader said. “Fifty-four graduates have already taken part.”

Copies of the book are currently being purchased by alumni at wholesale price and collected for a giveaway to students at a gathering or on a class basis to ensure that every child in those classes can have a book.

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“I got the idea of ​​giving back to the school district that taught me from kindergarten through high school by giving away my children’s book,” said Rader, a third-generation RHS graduate in the Rader family.

“I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I took to Facebook to encourage other Roxana graduates to donate books to this cause.”

To date, generations of Roxana alumni have come together in one of the largest collaborative efforts Rader has been a part of, he said.

“Nearly 100 books were donated in just one day, from people in the ’68 grade to the most recent graduates,” he said. “All this so that children have access to literature, thanks to those who have visited these halls before.”

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At its core, What Is This? is an exploration of the world through the innocent eyes of a child and a celebration of the imagination with a challenge to appreciate and transform the ordinary at its very essence, Rader said.

This is the first of other planned books that Rader will self-publish.

During a Kickstarter campaign in March, Rader pledged to donate 10% of all project funds pledged to Partners for Pets within the first 48 hours of the campaign. The Kickstarter effort raised the money needed to make the book a reality based on people’s donations, and enough to sponsor the adoption fee for an animal.

For each issue of “What’s That?” Sold this month, $5 goes to Catty Shack, a private 501(c)(3) non-profit, cage-free cat rescue in Hamel.

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Rader will continue to work with Gusewelle, expanding the range of children’s titles to varying degrees for different age groups. “What is that?” released this summer. Afterwords Books, 441 E. Vandalia St., in Edwardsville, was the first store in the country to carry the book. It will be available in at least 20 other independent bookstores across the country, but not on Amazon and corporate bookstores.

“I want to support independent bookstores, brick-and-mortar and small businesses,” Rader said.

For more information on the book What Is This? visit the book’s Facebook and Instagram pages and Email [email protected] to purchase the book for the Roxana students.

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