Author Anaya Lee Willabus, who at age 9 became America’s youngest chapter book author, talked with elementary students from Brooklyn Community Services Gary Klinsky Children’s Centers After-School Program in November about her book, “A Bully’s Disguise,” and shared insights on children’s literacy. The presentation took place in the PS 149 library in East New York.
“It is extremely important for young people to read and write since we live in a technological age where reading a book seems unusual,” explained Willabus. “I love to read and find turning the pages fascinating beyond reading from an electronic device. Reading is going to always be a part of life, regardless of whatever profession one may choose.”
Through her book, “A Bully’s Disguise,” she wanted to tell a story that shows young readers there are different types of bullying. “It’s generally known that a bigger kid may bully a small kid, but that’s not true in all cases,” she said. “In my book, I try to touch on mental influences and peer pressure, which in my opinion are factors that contribute to bullying. Some kids feel the need to fit in and if they can’t, then they may do whatever it takes to get their way. Some children seek friendships that are not always the best match, so overall, the topic of bullying can be viewed from many angles. Also, bullies can very well be your own friend!”
“The children were excited and curious about meeting an author as young and as close to their age as Anaya,” said Donna Morancie, site director, BCS Gary Klinsky Children’s Center at PS 149. “Their interaction with Anaya included questions regarding the inspirations for her books and the relationship of her stories to her life. They were enthused by Anaya’s expressions of her love for learning, writing and being like any other child.”
When Willabus was 9 years old, she wrote and published her first book, “The Day Mohan Found His Confidence,” inspired from seeing cultural differences during a visit to her parents’ homeland of Guyana, South America. This book gained the Brooklyn resident the recognition of being the youngest child in U.S. history to write and publish a chapter book.
Since becoming a published author, Willabus has been honored by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and has met Sandra Granger, the first lady of Guyana, and Lech Walesa, the former president of Poland. Her accomplishments have been featured in New York newspapers and national newspapers, on websites, on radio shows such as HOT 97’s “Ebro in The Morning,” on television programs on such stations as Fox 5 New York, News One and WGN Chicago and in the Huffington Post. To promote reading and writing to children, she established the nonprofit Stalwarts Youth Corporation, which also focuses on academic improvement with art, poetry and essay contests. This year, Willabus published her third book, “Checo and the Homework Passes,” about Checo and his sister Tilly learning how to cope with challenges in school.
In 2017, Willabus became a Brooklyn Community Services ONE Brooklyn Community Ambassador. She was photographed for the poster and interviewed on the BCS ONE Brooklyn Community video series on YouTube about making a positive difference in Brooklyn’s underserved neighborhoods. “It was important for me to be a BCS Ambassador since the opportunity gave me a voice to highlight some of Brooklyn’s challenges,” she said. “If we are one Brooklyn, then we should all be treated that way— whether it’s jobs, school or how we look. I’m thankful for the opportunity and looking forward to being a positive role model!”
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