“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
The question is at the heart of “The Adventures of Rob and Rocky,” a children’s book about dreams, goals and aspirations for life. There was a time when you might expect a large percentage of responses to that question to be, “I want to be a firefighter when I grow up.”
The book’s author, Chicago native Robert “Bo” Chaney, just happens to be a firefighter himself, making the career switch after initially spending time as an educator in urban schools.
Now, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, many young people will respond by saying they want to be a professional athlete or an entertainer.
When we go to a school, most of the African American kids will say, ‘I want to play basketball, I want to play sports. Or I want to be an entertainer, a rapper, an actor, things like that.” Bo said in a video on the book’s website. “I just got tired of hearing that because those careers are really not attainable.”
The disconnect is jarring because only a tiny percentage of people can make a living in those high-profile professions, so Bo’s book sets out to show young people — especially children of color — that there are more exciting careers to explore.
Chaney has also added an “Adventures of Rob and Rocky: Activity and Coloring Book” to emphasize these lessons, while making it fun for children.
“If I could do it all over, what would I say to my younger self?”
Every parent strives to impart those lessons to their children. And that is the idea that became the guiding light for Bo as he wrote the book. Bo created the characters, Rob and Rocky, with his own two children in mind.
The book allows him to share the lessons far beyond his own family, with the hopes of making an impact on even more young people.
Judging by the average rating of 4.6 stars on Amazon, it’s been a tremendous success. Parents are sharing it with their kids. Teachers are sharing it with their students. The lessons are spreading.
In the book, while walking to school one day, Rob asks Rocky what he wants to be when he grows up. When Rocky responds that he wants to be a rapper because they make a lot of money, the wise older brother begins introducing Rocky to a range of positive, fulfilling (and more attainable) options.
Firefighter is, of course, one of the career paths the book explores. As a veteran firefighter in Fire Dept. Coffee’s hometown of Rockford, Illinois, Bo knows the importance of the job and the pride that comes with serving others.
But he also sees African Americans underrepresented in the fire service, as well as in law enforcement. When public servants become a more accurate reflection of the communities they serve, he believes, the lower the chances of friction and conflict.
“The Adventures of Rob and Rocky” is one way that Bo is setting out to inspire young children and, ultimately, create more harmonious communities.
“Will I see it in my lifetime? Probably not. I don’t know,” he said. “But will my kids see it? Can I make it better for my kids? Maybe. … If we can start that dialogue, then we can start to change things.”To learn more about “The Adventures of Rob and Rocky” and to order the books, visit RobAndRocky.com
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