Local Teacher Creates Children's Book, Shares History and Inclusion
A coach at Lee Elementary just published his children’s novel, A President, a King and You which aims to teach kids about inspiration, historical figures Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, while also teaching kids to believe in their own unharvested power to be leaders. Steve Loewenstein, or Coach Loew as he is called endearingly at Lee Elementary, is an educator who exudes happiness, making him one of the kids’ favorite people to see when they come into the gymnasium.
For Loewenstein, the decision to pair Dr. King with Abraham Lincoln as two of the story’s driving forces was a no-brainer.
“They really tag-teamed as two of the greatest Americans in our nation’s history and they’re very inspirational,” Loewenstein said. “I wanted kids to know about them and I wanted kids to dream about what they could do. At the end of the book, me and Megan [the illustrator] put A President, A King, and You and you can sign your name, so they can see themselves as future leaders, and that they understand that through courageous acts and academic commitment to excellence that they too can be America’s future leaders.”
Loewenstein has a profound admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln and has been attached to the change they created in the nation’s history. But, with all this history Loewenstein wanted to condense it into a story he could share with his students and young students everywhere. This led him to craft the book.
“I can share the whole experience of Dr. King, Montgomery to Memphis, but kids are not gonna remember all that,” Loewenstein said. “I wanted to put something in kids’ hands so afterwards they can understand the bus boycott, slavery, President Lincoln, the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. I had the desire to tell this story to kids in a fun way that softens the dark nature of slavery and segregation without sugarcoating it.”
When Loewenstein began writing, it was a straightforward children’s story, but he noted that he quickly “grew bored.” Now, the book is a five stanza rap, replete with detailed and colorful illustrations from Megan Regenold, the culmination of about a year and a half of Loewenstein writing, then bringing Regenold in to illustrate while edits were made.
Loewenstein has a gift for spoken word and sermon and it comes across not only in his job as a gym teacher, but also in his dramatic readings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons and speeches. This started early on for him as growing up in El Paso, Texas, next to the Phillips family, an African-American couple and their son Chris, Loewenstein was introduced to King’s speeches.
“I spent a lot of my time next door at the Phillips’s house, and I would listen to [Dr. King’s] voice and I would work in the garden and one day, when I was older and in high school, I asked to borrow Mr. Phillips’s Dr. King record,” Loewenstein said. “I found a lot of comfort next door, and then I would go to an African-American Baptist church with the Phillips family, and then I listened to the Dr. King album. I just felt a lot of comfort in that.”
Just before college, Loewenstein had made a side career of reciting Dr. King speeches and sermons at events. The forward of the book tells the reader in 2011 he was even invited to the MLK Memorial in Washington D.C. to perform “The Drum Major Instinct.”
In 1996, Rosa Parks visited Denton, and Loewenstein got the amazing opportunity to perform in front of her as well.
“Ms. Parks was sitting in the front row and she was smiling at me the whole time,” Loewenstein said. “And afterwards, I said, ‘Ms. Parks, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Can I give you a hug?’ And she said, ‘Because you did such a good job, I suppose so.’ Ms. Parks gave me a big hug and I got to shake her hand. I never will forget that day.”
Loewenstein is debating writing another children’s book in the literary nonfiction style, with a central, repeating phrase, but also declared he believes he “could work [his] whole lifetime with this book, and that would be enough.”
Loewenstein believes his book shares messages which are becoming increasingly important in a sociopolitical climate that can be divisive, even for youth. He said there is subtle messages of celebrating diversity, inclusion and conflict resolution.
“I want kids to know that the opportunities that they have today didn’t come without somebody sacrificing and suffering. I want kids to have an appreciation for the opportunities that they have today, and if they are aware, then they can gain a little appreciation, and then they can take that and then take full advantage of those opportunities and to reach for excellence academically and in their lives,” Loewenstein said. “Who knows what miracles you will achieve?”
Loewenstein and Regenold have a website for the book, where educators and students can listen to the accompanying rap, and print out “Dream Big” and “Dream Now” goal charts. A President, A King, and You was published through CreateSpace, a self-publishing service that gives writers and illustrators the option to sell through Amazon and independent bookstores, among other outlets. Regenold previously published her own children’s book, Winston Goes Home, a tale inspired by a mouse that was in her apartment, and is in works on others.
A President, A King, and You is available on Amazon.
Photo courtesy of Steve Loewenstein.
Header image layout design by Holden Foster.