Lakers Q&A: Metta World Peace hopes his children’s book inspire parents to read more to their kids

Metta's Bedtime stories

Below is a conversation I had with Lakers forward Metta World Peace today on his recently released children’s book titled “Metta’s Bedtime Stories.” The book, available online here and on Amazon for $12.95 for soft cover and $14.95 for hard cover, will have a portion of those proceeds benefitting World Peace’s foundation, Xcel University which primarily raises funds and supports various mental health charities and programs. Some of the proceeds will also help the foundation run by World Peace’s father, the Artest foundation, which supports inner city youth geared toward promoting non-violence.

How did the idea come up to write a children’s book?

I just thought I wanted to do some books. I have a book that I did on myself and put a lot of information in there and there’s a lot of stuff people didn’t know about me. But I thought, ‘You know what? If we’re going to write a book, let’s start it off the right way. Let’s be inspirational. Let’s not just make it about Ron Artest and Metta World Peace. This is inspirational. We wanted to do a book where we can start the process of getting people excited about education. That starts with the family. Our whole purpose was to get parents back interested in reading with their children. I don’t think all parents do that enough.

How long did it take to do the book?

It took a while. It looked real simple. But it really wasn’t. It was our first book It took six months to a year. We had so many different people involved and we wanted it to be good. The first design was all black kids, but we wanted it to make it diverse and be able to reach out all children. My team suggested it be a diverse group. That’s true because the world has changed. When I grew up in my neighborhood, I remember only seeing black kids. But when you get outside the neighborhood, there’s all different types of ethnicities. That was important in this book in bringing people together and closer.

Why do you think that was important?

It was important because you don’t want the kid to feel insecure about themselves. If you get a Latino, Asian or white kid reading a book full of black kids, it’s not relatable. We wanted something where everybody could relate to.

What did you like about Dr. Seuss’ books growing up?

I loved Dr. Seuss’ books. I still encourage people to read Dr. Seuss’ books. I think it’s encouraging and interesting. It makes it feel good after you read the book. I think “Green Eggs and Ham” is the best one. I think some people will say they have other books that are their favorite, but “Green Eggs and Ham” was definitely my favorite. It was fun and had a good message about trying something new. Dr. Seuss gave you the confidence to try something new and not be afraid.

Back cover FINAL

Did you read other books growing up?

I didn’t read a lot honestly. I read a lot of simple books. I was more of a math major and a basketball player. Even when I passed my SAT’s, I passed strictly because of the math scores and not the reading scores.

Do you wish you read more?

I wish I would’ve. But my parents never read to me at night. My dad worked me out at night and I did a lot of pushups and stuff. My mom disciplined me and got me involved in counseling. I had really good parents, but I didn’t read a lot. I was never really interested in reading. If parents get their kids interested in reading, they will become stronger and better educated. In America right now, a lot of kids aren’t interested in being the best they can be in school. It’s so important. A lot of these kids needs to start now so they can get jobs, be creative and own businesses. I’m not a politician or anything. But I want to see more kids involved with their future.

Are you interested in reading now?

I love poetry. I love all types of poetry. That’s what keeps me interested in reading. I don’t have a big vocabulary right now. But the more I read, the more I pay attention and the more I can relate to different words. I’m still learning to read. I read a lot of poems from Maya Angelou. She’s pretty cool. I get book collaborations that have great quotes. I like to read the collaborative poetry books because I’m not that advanced in reading poetry. I just started reading complicated poetry where the words don’t actually rhyme. I just started that years ago, but I’m off and on.

Will you ever reach Pau Gasol’s level? He’s reading history books, biographies, books in both Spanish and English Pau is amazing when it comes to books. I really respect Pau. I even talked to him about the books he’s reading. He’s always reading on the plane. Kobe reads a lot. Pau reads the most. That’s why those guys are so intelligent. But I’d rather read poetry more than anything else.

In your book, you’ve said “Mud in my Bed” is your favorite story. Why? I think it’s cute when the parents first read that to the kids, they’re going to laugh. The story gives you confidence that when you wake up from dreams you don’t have to be scared. Most kids wake up in dreams and have nightmares and fear that dream again. Those dreams aren’t real. You want to give them confidence in themselves. That’s an important story.

When I read it, it seemed like it a unique lesson in explaining why you shouldn’t immediately fault others and look at yourself in the mirror first. That was definitely the intent. With that story, I wanted to stress not to assume things. You want to eliminate the fear factor and give kids the confidence to do that. It’s hard to do that. You have to hit it on the nail. We tried as best as we could.

With a portion of your proceeds benefitting mental health charities, where do you think reading at an early age and the story’s message ties into your cause? It brings parents closer. In my household and the environment I grew up, there were a lot of parents who weren’t close to their child. Those parents sometimes didn’t know their son or daughter. I had friends who didn’t know their dad. This is one step in the direction to get parents closer to their child. You can always make time to read to your child every night or every other night before they go to sleep or after dinner. Then hopefully the household is stable enough. This is one step in the right direction and it’s all tied into mental health awareness. Those can be big issues or small issues. But this will bring families closer.

What do you read to your children?

When I first started to read books, it was more to Diamond (World Peace’s daughter). Sadie (one of his other daughters) asked me to read when she was 8. I was a young and irresponsible father at the age of 16 and 17 so I didn’t read to my children much. As I got older, I decided to take parenting class and read to my children. I read to Diamond the most and I read to Ron (one of World Peace’s sons) and Sadie a little bit. They really enjoyed it. They were looking forward to me reading to them. But it will come a point in time where they won’t want you to read to them anymore. You catch a kid when they’re early. I usually just read stories, Dr. Seuss or an animal story, whatever book they came with, they wanted me to read.

Why were you afraid of the dark when you were younger?

I don’t know why that would happen, but I was afraid of the dark as a kid. So I would leave the TV on. That’s something where we’re going to do more books and get them more confidence in themselves. It had to do with living in Queens (N.Y.) and it had to do with movies too. I would watch movies and get afraid. You don’t know how that can affect you when you get older. You try to be an asset for society. I didn’t overcome that fear until I was a man at 22 years old. I was always afraid of the dark.

How’s your biography coming along?

It’s going well, but we don’t want to release it yet. We wrote the book with a good co-writer and talk about the difference between Ron and Metta. It’s a good book, but we felt it’s too much about me and not enough about the kids.

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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at mark.medina@dailynews.com

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