TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The author of the children’s book series, Shelly’s Adventures, is working to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing.
Kentrell Martin was born and raised in Jacksonville, but he has called Tampa Bay home for over a decade. Sign language has been a part of Martin’s entire life.
“Growing up with a deaf brother, you always notice how others are staring and looking because it’s different,” Martin said.
With Martin’s brother being hearing impaired, signing became his second language. It was common inside of his house. However, it was when they stepped outside of their home when the stares and judgement would arise.
Those experiences eventually fueled a passion to make sure no other deaf person experienced what his family did.
“The goal was to create something that was fun and educational, but at the same time bring awareness to deafness and American sign language,” he said.
In 2006, Martin created Shelly’s Adventures. In the books, Shelly’s father is deaf, so her goal is to teach her friends sign language so they can communicate with her father.
“Wherever Shelly goes on her adventure she teaches her friend at least 10 signs,” Martin said.
While curating the idea for the book series, Martin said he not only faced financial adversity, but also discrimination.
“I heard at festivals that characters of color on the cover of books don’t sell,” he said.
The negativity did not stop Martin.
“That’s why I made sure Shelly was big, front and center,” he said.
Martin has published 11 books so far. Two books are actually written and published by his two sons.
“It makes me so proud to see my sons becoming authors and having published books,” Martin said.
Shelly isn’t the only person going on adventures; Martin does too. The majority of his business involves doing school visits in Tampa, across the country and the world. He currently has over 40 school visits booked for this school year.
“Each setting brings different value,” Martin said. “Whether it’s being an African-American author coming in which is rare you don’t see many male children book authors, or the diversity aspect of the books, the inclusion aspect.”
Currently, Martin is working on turning his books into plays. Schools can send students on field trips to see the plays next school year.