TEN DOLLAR WORDS FOR KIDSAuthor and father Kevin Kennedy shares his love for language in a new book by Christine St. Sing
Kevin and Martha Kennedy don’t mind their Greenbrier house being used as a social hub for neighborhood kids. In fact, while most parents seek to avoid noisy rooms, Kevin feels most at home surrounded by the chatter of teens and children. That’s where he gets inspiration as an author.
Kevin is passionate about his first published book, Ten Dollar Words For Kids, which officially hits the market in time for the holidays.
Published by Halo International, it is available on Kevin’s official website (with exclusive autographed copies) as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. Kevin will be on-hand to answer questions and sign copies at the McCarthur Center Barnes & Noble December 14th.
The book can best be described as creative education: fun illustrated characters, lots of whimsical poetry, and exposure to advanced vocabulary that children can grasp.
In short, imagine what would happen if Dr. Seuss wrote a dictionary.
As mainstream education seemingly continues to shift toward everything other than literacy, Kevin saw a need for his unique genre. Words, as he sees it, are the true currency of life, and stronger vocabularies lead to better overall performance.
“My book is geared toward children with their long-term benefits in mind,” he insists. “Let’s say there are two people interviewing for the same position. Imagine that one kid uses generic, pedestrian words while the other confidently articulates a more precise argument. Who do you think will get the job?”
Kevin believes children are capable of starting early. “Children learn the definition, apply the word in a sentence several times, and then finally watch that word become part of their everyday vocabulary. There’s something magical about watching a child grow more confident through their language skills.”
That kind of drive for excellence was instilled in him by his parents. Although his mother enjoyed the arts while his father worked in engineering, they both held equal pride in everything they did, and they taught him that fundamental values of hard work are universal.
His parents’ impact remains evident in the home he now shares with his wife of eight years and three children. Tasteful decorations, including strategically-placed paintings crafted by his mother, encourage a creative environment. Her beautiful work was reserved for friends and family, rarely used for monetary gain.
“She taught me to value the written word,” Kevin says. “I could count on her for honest critiques of my work because she wouldn’t let me settle for the pedantic. She drew better quality of out me, and she didn’t care whether it was for fun or income – excellence mattered for respect of the craft.”
His father’s engineering design atop the mantle reminds Kevin to search for continuous improvement. He’d also instilled in the family that successful parents raise children better than themselves.
As a child in Upper Arlington, Ohio, Kevin secured the nickname Doodle in spite of his less-than-stellar natural talent for illustration. Hours of practice overcame the deficit, and soon Kevin created his own characters.
“There’s something magical about watching a child
— Kevin Kennedy
“Around age 16, I focused on creating and developing a character that became the inspiration for my first book idea,” he recalls.
For years, though, the sketches and stories didn’t seem to add up to a career. He took an internship at an industrial design firm with strengths in aviation design after high school.
Then, with a father who’d served in WWII and a brother with combat time to Vietnam (both by way of the Navy), Kevin joined the Navy to serve his country as well.
He worked as a structural mechanic on carrier-based jets, then later as a Naval Aircrewman and Rescue Swimmer on anti-submarine warfare missioned helicopters. Vietnam had become a memory, but new conflicts like the liberation of Kuwait and Iraqi Freedom called him for service. He received his commission in 2000.
Kevin and Martha met in person 24 hours after initial contact from an online dating site. Kevin credits his son Ryan, then 16, who encouraged his dad to go try the online service. Two years later, Martha moved to Hampton Roads from the Outer Banks and is now a business analyst for Sentara.
After retiring from the Navy, Kevin worked in government sales until his employer was forced to do some restructuring. Seeking a fresh start in his career, he dove into podcasting with a friend. They developed a program on how to create online revenue. That’s when the book idea surfaced.
“One day we did a particular segment, and the book idea just came to fruition,” he explains. He figured out how to use his childhood character in a way that provided education. “The book isn’t fairies and mushrooms; it is whimsical rhyme partnered with pictorial pleasantries.”
Kevin has 31 follow-up books in the works, some of which rely on specific subject matters. Future titles include industry-specific vocabulary lessons for math, science, and healthcare. Also planned is an exclusive book on cancer terminology. Kevin reached out to a friend and fellow Navy veteran who lost his daughter in 2008. The two of them are collaborating to help children better understand what cancer patients go through. A portion of the proceeds are set to benefit pediatric cancer research.
Kevin and Martha have prioritized family and honored their parents by encouraging their children to focus on being better than them. Ryan, now 27, is a crew chief and Sergeant in the Army; he just returned from his second deployment in Afghanistan. Kylie, 18, is in her first year at TCC working toward a degree in physical therapy. The six-year-old twins, Rayce and Makaira, read at second and fourth grade levels.
“Our children open doors for us to make so many friends in this community,” Kevin remarks. “They bring over guests of all ages. As a children’s author, I’m lucky to interact with the whole spectrum from very young kids to older teens. I’ve written a book that appeals to every age group.”
When the Kennedys aren’t entertaining, they snowboard or ski in the winter and hit the beach in the summer. Meanwhile, their three dogs and two cats are always well cared for.
Kevin maintains a blog on his website, where he relays fun news about his children and speaks candidly about life as a published author. He enjoys mentoring others who may have a unwritten book hiding somewhere in them.
“My job is done if my website can make the process better for someone else,” he says. “It turns out that ‘making them better than yourself’ doesn’t just apply to your own children.”