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St. Petersburg’s Cultured Books makes literacy-based show for youth

‘Read About It’ connects children’s books with Tampa Bay people and places.
Published Dec. 14, 2020
Updated Dec. 15, 2020

Lorielle Hollaway loved watching Reading Rainbow and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when she was a little girl.

Fast-forward to 2017, when Hollaway founded Cultured Books, a children’s bookstore popup in St. Petersburg that focuses on positive stories and images of people of color. She saw that Haslam’s Book Store had a show on WEDU called The Wonderful World of Books that was all about reading.

She thought to herself, “It’s cool that people would watch a show about books.”

Having her own show became a dream. It started to come to fruition in August when Hollaway posted on her Facebook page that she wanted to do a literacy-based show. She was asking for contacts in a college or university film program.

Tamia Iman Kennedy, founder of multimedia production company Black on the Scene, put her hand up to offer help.

Read About It was born. Kennedy tapped cinematographer Moji Wilson to help. Hollaway enlisted her daughters Nadia and Ava Hardy, ages 10 and 8, to be the hosts.

The concept is to connect books to people and places in Tampa Bay.

The book they chose for the pilot was Kimberly Drew’s This Is What I Know About Art. The girls do interviews with local artists Ya La’ford and Nick Davis, as well as Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg curator Katherine Pill in the “Derrick Adams: Buoyant” exhibition.

A still from the "Read About It" pilot trailer.
A still from the "Read About It" pilot trailer. [ Courtesy of Lorielle Hollaway ]

“Everyone was so accommodating and accepting,” Hollaway said. “One of the nice things about COVID is we were able to have the museum to ourselves.”

One of Hollaway’s ideas was to have the girls travel the city on a bus. So she reached out to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

“They were like, ‘Okay, which bus do you want?’” she said.

The pilot is a proof-of-concept trailer that Hollaway is using in hopes of getting funding to make the series. The Read About It trailer can be found on Vimeo.

It was made on a shoestring budget and shooting took four days. Hollaway credits Black on the Scene with making it come together.

The first full episode will premiere with a screening at the Factory St. Pete on Jan. 9.

Hollaway has ideas for more episodes, including highlighting a book about Wendell Scott, the first Black NASCAR driver, to tie in with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“My dad always told me, you won’t know if you don’t ask,” Hollaway said. “This year has shown me you can count on your community.”