April Whitt was just as surprised as anyone as doors opened up for her when she put her trust in God. Hailing from Davenport, this Florida native has a heart for working with special education students and has taught for 13 years at Doris Sanders Learning Center in Lakeland. The center is a public school with 100 moderately to severely disabled students, ages four – 18 years- old. There is also a graduate program that focuses on life skills for students ages 18 through 22.

Whitt often reads to her students and noticed the lack of good books containing disabled characters. This is when Whitt felt called to write her first book, Private Eye, Romeo Riley. This is the first book in a five part series.

“The books began when I noticed the lack of representation of people with disabilities in popular literature,” said Whitt. “I knew that many of my kids enjoyed funny books and silly adventure stories, but could they truly identify with a character whose life was so different from theirs?”

Whitt’s stories are fun and full of wild adventures. Many of the characters, including the main character, Romeo,  are loosely based on some of the students Whitt’s known and loved and the story lines are based on many of the exciting things that have happened over the years.

“The books are written with the reluctant reader in mind, about third to fourth grade reading level.  I’m hoping to reach not only mainstream elementary readers, but also older students or even adults with disabilities who may struggle with reading, but who would appreciate a book about someone they could identify with.  Also, I’m hoping that schools moving toward inclusion will be interested in a light hearted story about someone with special needs,” said Whitt.

Whitt was not only divinely inspired to write this book series, but ended up illustrating it as well.

“I have to say that God truly works in mysterious ways, and He is so caring to bring my dream alive in this way, because I was beginning to think that I’d never get anywhere with my dream of being an author,” said Whitt. “But the book had many prayers prayed over it and wonderful encouragement from family and friends. And so, I’m thinking “Romeo” is here to stay for a while—and maybe have a few more adventures ahead.”

The second book is scheduled for release in mid-September. For more information about the book, visit www.romeorileytheseries.com and can be purchased on www.amazon.com.


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Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.