Unexpected celebrity

Hoover 8-year-old Nia Mya Reese writes and publishes first children’s book

 

Written by Emily Sparacino

Photographs by Dawn Harrison

 

When Nia Mya Reese was a baby, her mother, Cherinita, whispered words of encouragement in her ear repeatedly as she rocked her to sleep.

“Her name means ‘purpose that is great,’” Cherinita said of her now-8-year-old daughter, a second-grader at Deer Valley Elementary School in Hoover. “When she was a baby, I told her she was going to help a lot of people in the world. I just didn’t know she was going to be doing this so early.”

Neither did Nia Mya, but in November 2016, she took a significant step toward fulfilling her mother’s prediction by becoming a published author.

Nia Mya’s book, “How to Deal with and Care for Your Annoying Little Brother,” has gained international attention, earned rave reviews online and landed her on multiple talk shows in New York and California in the last several months.

“I didn’t think I would be a celebrity,” Nia Mya said at her family’s home in March, shortly before the Reeses left for a Spring Break trip to New York City––and the filming of another television appearance for Nia Mya.

Her book originated as a writing assignment in class.

“The assignment started as a class writing topic,” Beth Hankins, Nia Mya’s first-grade teacher at Deer Valley Elementary, wrote in an email. “We were learning about informative writing and I asked the children to think of something they were an expert at doing … to think of something they could teach someone else to do. When topics were being discussed, I reminded the children they needed to be able to ‘teach across their fingers.’ This means to choose a topic, they would need to be able to support it with five good ideas or reasons.”

According to Hankins, Nia Mya immediately said, “I am a really good big sister,” and started writing the ways of how she was a great big sister to an annoying little brother.

Nia Mya said she probably exceeded the five-point minimum.

“I think I wrote more,” she said, as Cherinita agreed with her. “I achieve goals, but I think I go over them a little bit. Well, maybe a lot.”

While her classmates chose topics like singing and dancing, Nia Mya chose something––or, more accurately, someone––closer to home: Her 5-year-old brother, Ronald Michael.

“I really want to show people how to deal with and care for an annoying little brother,” she said. “I wasn’t ashamed.”

What started as an in-class assignment turned into a book draft for Nia Mya during the summer after first grade.

“When summer came and journals were sent home, this little jewel was developed further and now is a bestseller on Amazon,” Hankins said.

Cherinita knew Nia Mya’s work was special when she read it.

“When I saw it, I said, ‘Nia Mya, I think you just wrote your first self-help book for kids,” Cherinita said. “I think what makes it great is it’s such a pure book from the child’s perspective.”

That summer, Nia Mya revised her draft, read the sentences aloud and made other edits to prepare it for publishing.

Meanwhile, Nia Mya’s older cousin, Faith Martin, created illustrations for the book.

Martin babysits Nia Mya and Ronald Michael, and “watched that interaction,” Cherinita said.

Cherinita researched how to get the manuscript published, and thought the family might go the self-publish route.

“I had no idea what to do,” she said.

Cherinita reached out to Yorkshire Publishing in Oklahoma for guidance, and received more.

“When they saw it, they asked if they could partner with us in getting the book published,” she said of the company. “They have been nothing but excellent.”

“How to Deal with and Care for Your Annoying Little Brother” published Nov. 30, 2016, and was released to the public in mid-December, according to Cherinita.

It is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and other online retailers.

It is also available for check-out at the Hoover Public Library and Deer Valley Elementary School’s library.

On March 17, Cherinita said she received an email from Yorkshire Publishing notifying her Nia Mya’s book was ranked above “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and “The Great Gatsby” on Amazon.com for sales activity that day.

In the same month, the book ranked among Amazon’s overall top 100 books.

In addition to her TV appearances and news media interviews, Nia Mya has held book signings and meet-the-author sessions at the library and local schools.

Her book was even mentioned during a newscast in Poland, Cherinita said.

“It’s literally reached an international level,” she said. “It’s just gotten extraordinary attraction. It’s super wild.”

Cherinita and her husband, Ronald, have been Nia Mya’s unofficial managers throughout the process. They are tasked with reviewing potential engagements, overseeing her schedule and serving as her advocate in business matters involving her book.

Nia Mya is already scheduled for several things in 2018.

“I try my best to shield her from a lot of stuff to keep her life super normal,” Cherinita said. “I’m kind of a little floored by all this.”

Nia Mya, who wants to be a pre-kindergarten teacher when she grows up, has met and inspired more children and adults than she can count.

Cherinita said seeing children react to Nia Mya’s success when they talk to her is the most rewarding part of the experience.

“It ignites that learning light, that creativity light on the inside of them,” Cherinita said. “She signs all of her books with ‘follow your dreams,’ and I can see that’s exactly what she’s doing – following her dreams.”

Hankins said Nia Mya was an “absolute joy to teach” and is a “perfect example of how reading and writing complement each other.”

“My greatest joy has been sharing her book with students and seeing her book throughout our classroom in book boxes, our school library and in the hands of children across the world,” Hankins said. “I am honored to be part of this amazing journey with Nia Mya, as I can only imagine what the future holds for this precious little girl.”

Marjorie Keeney, Nia Mya’s second-grade teacher, also praised her for her work ethic at school.

“Nia Mya is just an all-around great student,” Keeney said. “Her love for learning inspires others and she brings out the best in people.”

Nia Mya’s brother – the person at the heart of her book – has received more attention than he was expecting, and jokes that she needs to write her next book soon.

“He’s very protective of his sister,” Cherinita added.

Nia Mya’s special request for the family’s Spring Break trip to the Big Apple was to see the Statue of Liberty.

Like other kids, Nia Mya enjoys activities and hobbies besides writing – “gymnastics, art, reading, dancing, playing, swinging, running and jumping,” she said.

She has started developing ideas for more books; but, for now, she and her family are simply enjoying the results of her first book’s success.

“It’s been a great ride,” Cherinita said. “It’s been an exhilarating ride.”