On Thursday, Allisha Gray attended the Read to Final Four event in Dallas, Texas, to promote the new children’s book her boyfriend, Timothy Mangum Jr., wrote: “I Don’t Care You’re Still a Bear.”
Cover of the book ‘I Don’t Care You’re Still a Bear’ by Timothy Magnum Jr., illustrated by Mike Motz
Mangum Jr.’s book helps parents open the discussion of racism with their kids. One morning, at the Grande North Zoo, a polar bear awakes and sees that all of his fur is gone. He is then mistaken for a black bear by the zookeeper and is placed in a new exhibit. In this new exhibit, he learns that black bears are treated differently and is inspired to effect change in order to make it fair for all bears regardless of their fur.
Mangum Jr.’s inspiration for “I Don’t Care You’re Still a Bear” came from his time as a graduate student at Texas State University, during which he pursued a Master’s degree in school psychology. Because he worked with kids on a daily basis, Timothy reflected on his own childhood and recalled a lack of books about racism, racial differences, and social justice growing up.
Furthermore, with today’s society transitioning away from discussing race in school, Mangum Jr. was even more motivated to create something that sparked conversation for parents and their children.
Read to the Final Four
The Read to the Final Four initiative was launched in 2016 by the NCAA. It’s a reading competition between schools in the Final Four host city, geared toward creating a lifelong love of reading and literacy for young students.
In addition to prizes and monetary awards, participants are also in the running for a unique experience: “The top four schools with an average of the most minutes read will be awarded a field trip to crown the winning school in a special award ceremony during the week of the Women’s Final Four.”
Gray championed the Read to the Final Four initiative, stating that “reading is knowledge.” She was excited to be around other readers while also using her platform to promote Mangum Jr.’s book and push a positive message.
Reflecting on their first official collaboration, Gray and Mangum Jr. were all smiles when I asked about the book creation process and working together. While Gray explained that her only role in the book was providing moral support and pushing her partner to his best, Timothy stated that the book wouldn’t have been published without her.
Gray wasn’t available to read at the event due to losing her voice a couple days prior, so she received one final assist from former Dallas Wings teammate Veronica Burton, who filled in for her.
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Using Your Platform
Gray was all in on the Final Four initiative as a means of being an advocate for Tim and using her platform to spread a positive message.
“[Racism] should be discussed [with kids]as soon as possible,” she stated.
“I know Tim’s book plays a big role in [discussing racism at a young age]because it teaches kids in a more kid-friendly way.”
She also dove into the different lessons “I Don’t Care You’re Still a Bear” teaches in addition to racial differences, such as being who you are and treating everyone with kindness.
Both Mangum Jr. and Gray share the goal of the book: helping children develop a foundational understanding of racism.
“I just hope that parents, kids, and others who read the book learn something from it because there’s so many lessons to learn…,” said Mangum Jr.
“It’s something that you can read over and over again and take something new from it.”
Timothy Mangum Jr.’s book, “I Don’t Care You’re Still a Bear,” is available for purchase on Amazon as a Kindle edition, hardcover, or paperback.