HUNTERSVILLE – Matt Kenseth, driver for the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, converted his passion for racing into a colorful, 22-page children’s book designed to raise awareness of bullying prevention.
Kenseth and his wife, Katie, published a children's book, “Race Against Bullying,” and read it to second-graders from Grand Oak Elementary School Aug. 26 at Joe Gibbs Racing.
“Anytime a role model like Mr. Kenseth can share a message that will inspire kids and help them to create connections is a positive thing,” said Raymond Giovanelli, principal at Grand Oak Elementary. “Treating each other as a family and with respect is something we value a great deal at our school.”
In support of Matt’s cause, Citizen Watch, longtime Kenseth sponsor, made a $25,000 donation to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, an organization that helps individuals learn to read.
Katie and Matt began working on the story a year ago and agreed on the bullying topic.
Matt and his wife did not write the book and put it together themselves, but the Dollar General publisher would ask for their perspective as far as what they did or didn’t like. The couple also incorporated themselves, their relatives and people they know within the story.
“We spent some time talking about the ideas, characters and storyline and what we wanted it to look like,” Matt said. “It turned out really, really good, way better than I could have ever imagined.”
Matt and Katie said publishing a children’s book was a must out of their desire to educate children on the effects of bullying and how to deal with issues children face as they grow up and head off to school.
“Books are such a key part in a kid’s life. It would give us a great opportunity to teach our kids about bullying, teach them how to be nice and how to stop it,” Katie said. “We will spend many nights reading (our book), that’s for sure.”
Katie said working with her husband taught her a lot about him, his education and what he faced being bullied for racing. She said some of the kids who used to bully Matt now enjoy coming out to see him race.
When Katie and Matt started communicating with the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, the book took off instantly. The Kenseths plan to publish three additional books in the future.
“They will have different topics, whether that’s honesty, nutrition or whatever it is. We will still try to use the same concept of it being in school,” Katie said. “Matt wants to race, he is going to need nutrition to keep his focus and to grow, and honesty is a lesson that we need daily in life.”
Matt’s wife feels every child needs someone for support, a friend, parent or teacher. She hopes kids who read the book understand that everyone is different and it is never okay to tease or belittle others.
“Instead of focusing so much on the bullying, we can focus more on how to be advocates to stop the bullying,” Katie said. “A child at any age can do that.”
Want to read the book? Buy Matt Kenseth’s book, “Race Against Bullying,” at Dollar General stores or online at www.dollargeneral.com.