Augmented Reality Infuses Ken Harvey’s Children’s Book with Fresh Inspiration
A little more than 20 years ago, former Redskins linebacker Kenneth Ray Harvey wrote a storybook for his then young sons, Anthony and Marcus. At the time, it wasn’t hard for the young African American boys to imagine themselves growing up to become pro athletes like dad, who played with legends like Darrell Green. What was harder to visualize was all the otherthings they could become. Ken’s book portrayed for his preschoolers a world where they could grow up to be an airplane pilot, a boat captain or a race car driver. Either Anthony or Marcus could have pursued any of those professions, but not many children’s books of the day starred kids of color exploring their limitless options.
Ken taught them to dream big in his book, Come Find Me, with an imaginative game of hide-and-seek, where Marcus issues the age-old invitation and his older brother, Anthony, looks for him in (you guessed it), a plane, a boat and a race car.
When he shared the idea with his then teammate Terry Crews, Terry immediately volunteered to illustrate it. (Yes, that Terry Crews, who plays Terry Jeffords on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, rocked Bedlam in Deadpool 2 and—because this is the kids and pets issue—hosted the Puppy Bowl last year!)
Terry, now vastly more famous as an actor than he ever was as a linebacker in the NFL, pays homage to Ken for his starring role as father in the forward of the just re-released book, published by his own Amen and Amen Publishing.
“The little boys featured in this book both graduated college and have master’s degrees in their respective fields of study. I believe their success began when their dad wrote Come Find Me, and they envisioned themselves as the adventurous characters in this book.”
So, what possessed Ken, long retired from football and now serving as a wealth management partner for Fellows Financial Group in Leesburg (FellowsFG.com), a physical trainer for space tourists and writer of sports columns for The Washington Post, to republish his work so long after his kids were grown?
Well, not surprisingly, Ken and Terry stayed good friends in the decades since, and Ken may be forgiven if he sometimes feels like he’s been “wandering in the wilderness” when comparing his life to Terry’s. It turns out, Moses is a kind of role model for Ken, because he went from a man literally at the top of the food chain in Egypt, to wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. God never exactly spoke to Ken from a burning bush, but when he mused about what he’d really accomplished in his life, the verse that inspired him to “do more with what I have” was Exodus 4:2, where God asks Moses, “What’s in your hand?”
Ken is a writer of many more genres than children’s literature, including a detective novel, Xavier: A Hero No More, about a former NFL player’s fall from grace following a tragic accident and the feverish work of a detective who idolizes him and works to clear his name. There’s a sequel thriller in the works, following a book called Alone about a teenage boy raised by four women on a desert island, and several screenplays. Quite simply, what’s in Ken’s hand is not a staff but a pen, and he wanted to do more.
Enter Enrique Sanchez-Rivera of Augmented Island Studios, a pioneer in entertainment applications of augmented reality. Working together, the trio has created an experience where—when parents download the Come Find Me app on their phone and simply point it at the book’s illustrations—their children can not only dream of their adventures as a sea captain but touch the screen to see the boat rise off the page, splash into the waves and hear the sound of the ocean and the full-throated cry of seagulls! (The book is available for purchase at ComeFindMe.com, and the app is free.)
Ken hastens to assert that using augmented reality isn’t an excuse for parents to cede “story time” to yet another electronic gadget.
“Younger kids especially care more that you’re spending emotional time with them,” Ken says. The book is a way to interact with the boys and use their adventures as an invitation to talk with kids about what excites them and learn more about what they want to do when they’re older.
Spoiler alert: The book ends with Marcus saying, “No, silly! I’m right behind you.” Ken would like the book to have enough of an influence that he might license the characters to have other adventures that would both ignite children’s imaginations and teach them compassion and a sense of responsibility to care for one another. For Ken, the unifying theme of Marcus and Anthony’s adventures is, “We have to look after each other. Everyone struggles, but help is right behind you, right next to you.”
You can find Ken coaching and co-captaining the annual Congressional flag football team which plays an annual game against the Capitol Hill Police team to raise money for charity, helping people plan their financial security or sometimes at the local Starbucks, writing.