CHICAGO — For more than 40 years, Stuart Rankin and Al Hawkins have been tennis partners and friends, but these retired grandfathers say as their golden years came upon them, they felt a need to give back to future generations. They’re doing so by writing and creating children’s books to help guide and educate our youth.

Last month, Rankin and Hawkins held their first book reading for kindergarteners at Bronzeville Classical Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side.

“This is the first time we’ve actually seen kids react to it,” Hawkins said.

Named after Rankins’ now-adult grandchildren, the book titled ‘Miles and Chloe” guides kids through real life situations like when to dial 911, what to do if they encounter stranger danger and also addresses what to do if they encounter a gun in their home.  

“Luckily, we have not had to deal with here a child finding a weapon at school but we know that living in Chicago in more recent months, days it’s been a little more dangerous,” Nicole Spicer, Bronzeville school principal, said.

Spicer says after a chance encounter with Rankin earlier this year she learned about the books liked them and invited the pair to speak to the class. She says it is important for children to be prepared.

“We have been so focused on academics and unfinished learning that sometimes we forget about those life lessons that we know our little people need to be taught,” Spicer said.

Rankin, a former geography teacher turned marketing executive, and Hawkins, a professional artist, say the ideas for the books emerged from conversations they had post retirement. 

“We figured we couldn’t do much about the world but maybe we could impact children where we thought, that’s the key is to get young people on board,” Rankin said.

And with a little creative writing and artistic doodling, Miles and Chloe were created. But this isn’t their first book. In 2012, the two published “The World Adventures of Howie and Albert” a story exploring the 7 continents.

“In many schools geography was dropped, and gym was dropped, music, the arts were dropped so I felt that my expertise in geography, whatever level that is, would be the best place to make an impact,” Rankin said.

Rankin and Hawkins, both now in their 80s, say they won’t be doing many book tours but they are working on a follow-up and continuing to make a difference.

“Both of us are retired and we did OK, but it’s really kind of leaving a legacy you might say, knowing that we contributed to some kid, doing the right thing in a bad situation,” they said.

Stuart Rankin and Al Hawkins they are two of Chicago’s Very Own.

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