At 46 years old, Wanda Steward was unable to read. Within a year, thanks to her determination, she became a published children’s book author.
The Southwest Philadelphia resident says she never took high school academics seriously; and having a child at 18 did not help matters, as she was left with no option but to drop out of school.
Her inability to read made parenthood difficult. “I would just put medicine in the cup, and give it to the baby and just pray that I did it right,” said Steward, who now has five children.
Although she was working several jobs, the family was living on welfare and barely getting by. She soon scored a job at Destination Maternity scanning garments, where she has to take a written test.
“All I could think about was, ‘I’m not getting any younger.’ I was desperate. It got to me,” said Steward.
It was at this point that she reached out for help. She began taking classes at the nonprofit Center for Literacy to improve her reading and writing skills. The program recommended Steward to Project Literacy, a global campaign, where she turned several of her short stories into a children’s book titled The Little Chicken Named Pong-Pong.
Throughout the process, she met actor Idris Elba, who serves as a spokesman for Project Literacy. Elba narrated Steward’s book, which is now available for download.
“He said he really believed in me,” said Steward. “He explained that he had problems reading, too. He said he really liked the book.”
Congratulations, Wanda Steward!