Philadelphia native and sports editor John Butler is giving inner-city kids a chance to read about a Black child that lives a life like theirs with the creation of “Chase Does It All,” a children’s book released in August.
Butler, 31, has lived in Philadelphia all his life, and with the release of “Chase,” he shares everyday, coming-of-age experiences that come with living in the city. The book was inspired by his godson, Chase, who was born in May, but is for all children.
“My cousin told me she was pregnant and wanted me to be the godfather. I wanted to get a gift, so I went to the bookstore. [But] I could not find a book with Brown children in it,” said Butler. “I said ‘forget it, I’m going to write it myself.’”
“Chase” tells the story of a young Black boy who wakes up one morning imagining everything he will do that day — from singing to playing baseball. He does each act he imagines with the help of his family — mom, dad, aunt, uncle and cousins — and at the end of the day, he prays. Throughout the story are references to names and places a Philadelphia child might be familiar with — the zoo and neighborhood pizza shop included.
“I made it very relatable,” said Butler. “These are places kids have visited or names that they can say, ‘I have seen that name before.’ There’s a void of books for young African Americans that depict a life similar to their own. I want to fill the void.”
Aside from the images, Butler said he is also concerned with childhood illiteracy and, equipped with “Chase,” wants to promote a love for reading with a city book tour, visiting schools and youth programs.
His first visit took place at the Germantown Boys and Girls Club and the latest was hosted by a group of first- and second-graders in Belmont Charter School’s Out of School Time (OST) after-school program. Butler read “Chase” to the students and answered their questions about the book and his writing process.
“We are in a big push to improve literacy and I think it’s important for our kids to see and hear stories that have kids that look like them and that have adults that represent who they are,” said Shanisha Mitchell, OST site director.
Cala Phelps, a first-grader in the Belmont after-school program, said she enjoyed “Chase Does it All” for several reasons.
“I liked it because when he talked about the pizza, I felt like I was eating one,” she said, adding that her favorite character was the aunt. “I liked the aunt because her hair was beautiful.”