Summit Academy Community School – Warren receives book donation from the family, with local ties, behind the stories
“Oftentimes people do not understand what we do at Summit Academy,” says Summit Academy Community School – Warren Principal Allison Glass. “I was genuinely thrilled that a ‘stranger’ took the time to research and offer such a generous gift for our students. It warmed my heart.”
Glass is referring to the donation of 50 children’s books from Warren native Shawn Brundidge and his wife, Sheletta. The books, written by Sheletta and published by Beaver’s Pond Press, share the stories and triumphs of the couple’s children Brandon, Cameron and Daniel, who are on the spectrum. Summit Academy, with its expertise in educating students with learning challenges such as autism and ADHD, could not have been a more fitting recipient of copies of three of the four books in a series. The fourth book, based on the story of the couple’s son Andrew, who is not on the spectrum, is in the works.
Shawn says the books, penned for first- and second-grade level readers, are centered on instilling an understanding of autism and compassion among children who are not on the spectrum.
Their book “Brandon Spots His Sign” takes a twist on a political protest phrase that includes Brandon’s name. Brandon spotted the saying on flags dotted throughout a Houston, Texas RV park at which the family was vacationing. “He saw these as words of encouragement,” says Shawn, explaining how his son embraced three words that touched him personally.
“Cameron Goes to School” describes the collective concern among the Brundidges’ circle of family, friends and neighbors about Cameron’s entry into kindergarten with the social anxiety she experienced. Cameron, now 9, tapped what her father describes as her quiet inner strength and taught a school community how to better understand and support someone with autism.
“Daniel Finds His Voice” shares the story of Daniel who was nonverbal until he was 4. On a family road trip Daniel began humming and singing to “Old Town Road,” which played over and over in the Brundidge family’s RV. “That was his breakthrough,” explains Shawn.
Through the books, Sheletta and Shawn hope to heighten awareness about autism and empower children with special needs.
“Kids need to understand if they have a classmate on the spectrum, they can engage and befriend them. They want to be treated as normal,” Shawn says. “Don’t let an autism diagnosis prevent you from befriending them. Let’s keep them in the fold and be inclusive.”
Glass says her school is planning to create book baggies students can take home over the holiday break. After they read the books, they can return them to the school and exchange them for a different selection, she says.
“Our hope is that our families will take time to connect with one another through reading the donated books. We know it is so important for our students to read outside of school,” Glass says. “This is an excellent way for families to spend time together while promoting the importance of reading.”
Beyond the holidays, Glass plans to use the books as a springboard for guiding students to write their own stories through their interactions and choices.
“We will certainly include this message as we talk about this donation. We greatly appreciate this family sharing their stories with us,” Glass says.