Anti-smoking children’s book has roots in Eudora Middle School DARE class
Logan Brown has provided American Indian children a mountain of strength to combat the tobacco industry’s attempt to hook them.
Brown, a graduate of Eudora Middle and Free State High schools and now a junior business major at Vanderbilt University, has authored the children’s book “Denali Dreams,” which shares a positive anti-smoking message with American Indian elementary students. The book was a product of Brown’s interest in writing and in fighting substance abuse.
“I had the ideas for a long time,” she said. “I thought about the message I wanted to get across and did two different drafts. I combined them for the final draft.”
In the book, Denali, an elementary school Alaskan native, uses the mountain for which she was named as inspiration to always work hard and not give up until she reaches her peak as a student and soccer player. With those goals, she has the strength to reject a friend’s offer to share a cigarette, visualizing the damage it would do to her lungs.
Brown, who is finishing a fellowship with the Truth Initiative Foundation, a nonprofit funded through the tobacco industry’s 1998 settlement with 46 states, said the book was printed through a partnership of the foundation, the Bureau of Indian Education and the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is meant to counter the tobacco industry’s successful marketing to American Indians, who have the highest childhood smoking rate among American ethnicities.
“Tobacco companies have tailored their messages toward Native Americans,” she said. “They are spending so much money marketing to the community.”
Brown said she was able to enlist the students of an elementary school to help with her project.
“I went to read the book to a Native American school in New Mexico,” she said. “They drew pictures of how they thought it should be illustrated. A graphic artist worked from that, but the illustrations are 100 percent the ideas of the students.”
“Denali Dreams” will be distributed this semester to students in the 186 American Indian elementary schools in the U.S., Brown said.
“I’ve had excellent feedback so far from the Bureau of Indian Education,” she said. “They found it very applicable. I’ve read to a few classes of kids. It was very successful so far getting the message across. I’m excited to see how it is received once all the schools receive it.”
Brown traces her anti-drug activism to the DARE program presented in her sixth-grade year in the Eudora Middle School health class of teacher Randy Foos. School resource officers Ryan Healzer and Caleb Lewis taught the DARE program, she said.
“That got me really involved in drug and alcohol prevention,” she said. “I also worked with the Douglas County district attorney, Charles Branson, in his office. I saw how drugs, alcohol and smoking ruined people’s lives.”
Foos said DARE tended to make big impressions on those the program reached. Brown was one of those.
“It seemed to be her passion at the time,” he said. “I firmly believe she was brought into this world to help people with that message.”
Brown said she didn’t know if she would be asked to do a second book but was looking to keep working on its message.
“I’m working on lesson plans to go along with the book,” she said. “We’ll see what the future holds. I’m happy to help get good information out there. It’s a labor of love for me.”