Today creative chick is really an inspiration. Mildred Pope was doing just fine for herself as a real estate broker, substitute teacher, mother of three adult children, grandmother to seven adored grandchildren and hostess of weekly family get-togethers – when she decided to start a children’s book series.
Like well-known African American actors-turned-authors Spike Lee, Debbie Allen and Bill Cosby, Mildred just wanted her children and grandchildren to be able to see themselves in their storybooks.
She also wanted them to laugh.
Told in verse and from a young black child’s perspective, But I Don’t Wanna Take a Bath! A Mike and Tyke Series follows the antics of Mike and his dog, Tyke, as they try various disguises to hide from Mom and bath time so they can return to playing with their friend Bud, who is of another ethnicity.
She believes that by reading together, parents can impart values to their children, and families can grow strong together.
Mildred practices what she preaches in regard to strong families. Every Sunday, a hearty dinner is brewing in her kitchen, and every member of her family and their friends know that if they don’t have plans, they are always welcome at the Pope house. On any given Sunday, one can witness the entire clan dancing and laughing in the kitchen – the “gathering room.”
They may not know it, but they also might be under Mildred’s eye. She admits to studying people’s behavior – a natural tendency, since she earned a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science and Management. She wrote several papers on children and their behavior that were based on her own research into why children act out. A substitute teacher for the Dekalb County School System (in the Decatur, Stone Mountain and Lithonia areas around Atlanta), Mildred works with children who have disabilities and behavioral problems.
“Most children who act out do so because of their inability to express themselves and their lack of attention. Children who lash out are still rewarded by attention, although it’s negative,” she says. “I can usually get them to calm down.”
She encourages all the children in her life to find an outlet in reading. She uses her book and herself as an example of its benefits.
“I tell them I could never have become a businesswoman and an author if I hadn’t learned to read and stayed in school,” she says. “It makes an impression on them.”
Her three now-grown children and her seven grandchildren know that she has high expectations for them. She has always challenged them to be better people.
And they were the inspiration for the Mike and Tyke Series, from which we can expect more “But I Don’t Wanna!” books. The title comes from a phrase Pope has heard for two generations in her own family.
“When my kids were young, my kids didn’t ‘wanna’ do certain things, and their complaints were always preceded with ‘but.’ When the grandkids came along, they started doing the same – ‘But I don’t wanna!’ I thought this was hilarious.”
The illustrations for her first book were just as important to Pope as the story. She worked closely with the illustrator until the characters matched the ones she saw in her mind’s eye.
The story depicts positive relationships – between children of diverse race, between a boy and his dog, and between a boy and his mother. She hopes it and the books to come will prompt many hours of reading pleasure in classrooms and families.
“You can’t sit around and wait for things to happen. I make things happen,” Mildred says matter-of-factly.
You can visit her website to learn more about her books: www.butidontwanna.net