Susan Smith-Grier had been working as a freelance writer and copywriter when she joined Reading Corps in 2016. It was primarily her love of books and writing that drew her to the program. But she also was intrigued by the mission and wanted a chance to work with kids.
“I love books and writing. I was inspired to become a tutor by Bea Anderson, a retired teacher. Years ago she tutored adults who wanted to learn how to read,” Susan shared. “Listening to her stories planted the seed in my mind that when I got to be her age, I would like to do something like that as well.”
As a tutor at Eagle View Elementary, Susan experienced many great moments. Her favorite was witnessing student progress. She got to see discouraged kids transform into successful readers time and time again. She went on to tutor for two years.
Susan’s experience as a tutor heavily influenced her work after Reading Corps. “I discovered that there were many students who were reading below grade level,” Susan explained. “Part of the problem seemed to be that they were older students but the books for their grade level were too difficult for their reading ability and the books they could read were well below their interest level. I started to create books that are of interest to kids who are older and have lower-level reading ability.” These are known as hi-low books (high interest, low level).
Now as a Hinge Arts Resident through Springboard for the Arts, Susan is continuing to write hi-low books and books for and about African American kids. Later this year, she will be working with award-winning author Carolyn Holbrook to develop a writing workshop for single parents. Susan recently earned third place in the Free Spirit Press and Strive Publishing’s 2020 African American Voices in Children’s Literature contest. She is working on having the winning book published later this year.