Kid Lit Review of “I Promise” by LeBron James

LeBron James supports the “I Promise School” in Akron, Ohio, which is a public school primarily attended by low-income children. James’s foundation provides financial support for resources not only for children but for their parents. As the “New York Times” reports:

“Mr. James’s foundation covers the cost of all expenses in the school’s family resource center, which provides parents with G.E.D. preparation, work advice, health and legal services, and even a quarterly barbershop.”

Similarly to Geoffrey Canada and his groundbreaking educational efforts in Harlem, James is operating on the theory that the key for disadvantaged kids to succeed is to help create “a cocoon of support – educational support, emotional support, medical support – that starts at birth and never stops.”

This book for young children aged 4 and up is a “literary extension” of his school, and was designed to motivate children to work hard, be open to new things, ask questions, be kind, and “to reach for my star, even when I can’t see it.”

Many of the verses in this poem include basketball analogies:

“I promise to go to school and read as much as I can, to follow the rules and respect the game plan.”

The last promise in the book, taking up a double-page spread is:

“I promise to be me.”

LeBron James adds a note to the back of the book, stating: “Remember. Nothing is given. Everything is earned.”

The last page features a checklist of promises to which children can easily refer.

Illustrations by Nina Mata show a very diverse group of children and teachers joyfully engaged in affirming activities.

In an interview during the COVID lockdown, LeBron James stated:

“Kids and families are going through a lot . . . I hope this book can bring them some hope and positivity, and encourage them to keep pushing, because we will make it through this tough time.”

Elsewhere he explained:

“The purpose of these promises we make to ourselves and to each other, and that we’re sharing with kids across the world in this book, is to tell them they can do anything they put their minds to if they commit to doing the hard work.”

Evaluation: LeBron James is so admired that it means a great deal for him to lend his prestige to these positive messages for children. I remember when I was in school we studied Benjamin Franklin’s prescriptions to succeed; these are more suitable for young children, more relevant, and more needed than ever.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2020

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