Read for the Lead is a read-out-loud initiative and author interview series with NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones and his charitable foundation, the Erik Jones Foundation, to promote childhood literacy, reading resources, and North Carolina-based authors and books.


Throughout 2022, North Carolina Humanities is helping select North Carolina-based authors and books for Erik Jones to read out loud during his #READwithErik Facebook reading events to encourage childhood reading and imagination. After each read-out-loud event, North Carolina Humanities is supplying free reading resources and books as well as conducting exclusive interviews with the featured book’s author. Author interviews are available on North Carolina Humanities’ YouTube page.


Beyond #READwithErik, the Erik Jones Foundation will support North Carolina Humanities holistically throughout 2022 by promoting and participating in the activities surrounding our North Carolina Reads statewide book club and other book-centric programs for community centers, schools and libraries.



Read for the Lead Author Interviews and Featured Books:


December 2021/ January 2022: Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom written by Kelly Starling Lyons

Ty can’t wait to ride his brand-new scooter! While other kids zip and zoom by all Ty can do is wobble! Ty wants to give up, but a new friend helps Ty give it another try. You can learn more about North Carolina-based author Kelly Starling Lyons at




February 2022: Excellent Ed written by Stacy McAnulty

All the Ellis kids are excellent in their own way. So excellent, in fact, that the family dog, Ed, begins to worry. What if he’s not excellent enough to belong in this family? You can learn more about North Carolina-based author Stacy McAnulty at

Watch Read for the Lead Author Interview



March 2022: No Buddy Like a Book written by Allan Wolf

Calling readers and daydreamers, word mavens and lovers of adventure! This celebration of the power of books is a rallying cry for letting imaginations soar. Allan Wolf is the author of picture books, poetry, and young adult novels. Allan is a two time winner of the North Carolina Young Adult Book Award and the prestigious Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry.  You can learn more about North Carolina-based author Allan Wolf at

Watch Read for the Lead Author Interview



April 2022: Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished written by Camille Andros

Charlotte is a serious scientist. She solves important problems by following the scientific method. She has all the right equipment: protective glasses, a lab coat, a clipboard, and a magnifying glass. What she doesn’t have is space. She has so many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all) that she is too squished to work on her experiments! Can she use science to solve her problem? You can learn more about North Carolina-based author Camille Andros at

Watch Read for the Lead Author Interview


May 2022: The Wall written by Eve Bunting

In honor of Memorial Day, we selected a book that takes places just north of North Carolina in our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. In this book a boy and his father visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. We hope that this story encourages young readers to explore how the book portrays community, empathy, military service, and remembrance. NC Humanities and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary Post #9488 in Mecklenburg county worked together to donate book bundles to North Carolinians around the state that included a copy of The Wall, bookmarks, American flags, and more.


June 2022: Driving with the Devil: Southern Moonshine, Detroit Wheels, and the Birth of NASCAR written by Neal Thompson

This book was featured as NC Humanities’ last North Carolina Reads selection of 2022. Long before the sport of stock-car racing existed, young men in the rural, Depression-wracked South learned that cars and speed were tickets to a better life. With few options beyond farm or factory, the best chance of escape was running moonshine. Author Neal Thompson, Dr. Daniel Pierce, and Erik Jones discussed the book in front of a live audience at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on June 23. This book is intended for audiences 18+.

Watch the recorded program on our YouTube page.


July 2022: My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood written by Tameka Fryer Brown

Tameka Fryer Brown is an award-winning picture book author who writes to sow seeds of self-love, pride, connectivity, and inclusion. On a really good day, Jamie feels purple…like the first bite of a juicy cold plum. And with a crayon in his hand, Jamie eases into a green feeling…like a dragon dancing through a jungle made of green Jell-O. But when his brothers push him around and make fun of his drawings, Jamie feels gray like a dark storm brewing. What will it take to put Jamie back in a bright-feeling mood? Through Jamie, young readers will learn to describe their feelings in a unique way.  You can learn more about North Carolina-based author Tameka Fryer Brown at

Watch Read for the Lead Author Interview


August 2022: Take Your Pet to School Day written by Linda Ashman

Maple View School sends home a flyer inviting kids to bring their pets to school on Friday. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit, as it turns out. The pets aren’t exactly well-behaved. They make a mess in art class, won’t sit still for story time, and are extremely rude eaters. Who invited them anyway? Not the teachers. Certainly not the principal. Not even the kids. Was it the pets themselves? The pets only want to have fun, but if they want to stay at school, they’ll have to behave. Ashman is the author of more than forty picture books and the creator of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. Learn more about North Carolina-based author Linda Ashman at

Watch Read for the Lead Author Interview


September 2022: How to Steal A Dog by Barbara O’Connor

This book was featured as NC Humanities’ young adult Great Reads from Great Places book selection, which was featured at the 2022 Library of Congress National Book Festival. Georgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left and they were evicted from their apartment, her family has been living in their car. With her mama juggling two jobs and trying to make enough money to find a place to live, Georgina is stuck looking after her younger brother. When Georgina spots a missing-dog poster with a reward of five hundred dollars, the solution to all her problems suddenly seems within reach. All she has to do is “borrow” the right dog and its owners are sure to offer a reward. Barbara O’Connor is the author of award-winning novels for children. Drawing on her South Carolina roots, Barbara’s books are known for their strong Southern settings and quirky characters. Learn more about North Carolina-based author Barbara O’Connor at

Watch Great Reads Great Places Authors Discussing Their Work at the National Book Festival


October 2022: The Bake Shop Ghost written by Jacqueline Ogburn

Cora Lee Merriweather had a lemon pucker mouth and hair scraped back into a hard little bun. Cora Lee also baked the best pies and cakes for miles. But now Cora Lee haunts the shop she used to own. When new bakers arrive to take over her empty bake shop, she scares them away. Then Annie Washington comes to town, and it seems Cora Lee has met her match. Jacqueline Ogburn is a native North Carolinian. She has worked in publishing as a children’s book editor and is the author of ten picture books and one novel. Learn more about North Carolina-based author Jacqueline Ogburn at

Watch Read for the Lead Author Interview


November 2022: Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story written by Kevin Noble Maillard

Fry Bread is an evocative depiction of a modern, intergenerational Native American family and their friends as they make fry bread together. It is a rich story about food, culture, history, family, community, and perseverance. Kevin Maillard is Professor of Law at Syracuse University, and the debut author of Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. An enrolled member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, he is based in Manhattan, NY. Learn more about Kevin Maillard at


December 2022: The Knights Before Christmas written by Joan Holub

‘Twas December 24th, and three brave knights were just settling in for the night when out on the drawbridge, there arose such a clatter! The knights try everything to get rid of this unknown invader (Santa Claus!), a red and white knight with a fleet of dragons…. This parody of Clement Clarke Moore’s well-known poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas is a kid-friendly, clever, and just plain silly twist on a holiday classic. Joan Holub has authored and/or illustrated over 140 children’s books. Learn more about North Carolina-based author Joan Holub at

Watch Read for the Lead Author Interview


Latest Read for the Lead Author Interview:









About Erik Jones: The Erik Jones Foundation champions childhood reading, specifically by embracing literature and promoting the inherent value a book provides. The 25-year-old racer from Byron, Michigan, who now calls North Carolina home, is an avid reader who believes in the benefits of life long reading. Learn more at


This is a program of the North Carolina Center for the Book and is provided by NC Humanities.

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