Get the latest from TODAY
When Nia Mya Reese received a first-grade assignment to write a book on a subject that she's an expert in, she knew exactly what she’d write about — dealing with annoying little brothers. The project, “How to Deal with and Care for Your Annoying Little Brother,” turned into a published book and has become the number-one best seller on the Amazon sibling-relationships list.
“I am an expert at taking care of my annoying little brother,” the now 8-year-old told TODAY.
Nia Mya has been handling her bothersome sibling, Ronald Michael, for five years, so she knows exactly what she's doing. She understands that he’s annoying sometimes because he’s younger and just learning.
But there are times when he causes a problem and she needs to solve it. Like when he went through a phase where he’d wake at night and crawl into her bed. Or when he accidentally hurts her when they play.
“In football, he’s really rough,” she said.
Her favorite method of dealing with a pesky younger brother? “Teaching him. I make it a game because my brother likes to play games.”
When teaching doesn’t work, Nia Mya tries firmly saying no while explaining she needs alone time. She also tries apologizing to soothe her brother’s feelings, even if she thinks she hasn’t made a mistake.
Nia Mya included these tips in her book after Beth Hankins, first grade teacher at Deer Valley Elementary School in Hoover, Alabama, gave her class the assignment. But, her family remained unaware of the book until mom, Cherinita Ladd-Reese, found it in her daughter's school work and thought Nia Mya might be onto something.
“I was very, very tickled. I said ‘I think you wrote your first self-help book for kids,’” Ladd-Reese told TODAY.
But she knew the book needed some work. Ladd-Reese encouraged her daughter to check the spelling and read the sentences out loud to see if they sounded correct. If not, the girl revised them until they were right.
“We went through a long process,” Nia Mya said. “My mommy checked it.”
Ladd-Reese approached Yorkshire Publishing to ask how to self-publish the book. But the company gave her stunning news — it wanted to publish it.
So Ladd-Resse suggested that Nia Mya work with her cousin, Faith Martin, a junior in high school, to sketch out the illustration concepts. They shared these with Yorkshire’s graphic designer and they became the basis of the illustrations.
While Ladd-Reese felt thrilled after seeing the book published in November 2016, she couldn’t believe when it made the best-seller list on Amazon.
“It has been a thrill ride,” she said.
As for Nia Mya, she says she’s “happy and excited” but feels mostly unfazed by her success.
“She has been totally unbothered,” said Ladd-Reese.
When not playing with dolls, Nia Mya is working on her next book, which will be about a school bully from the bully’s perspective. The idea “just popped” into her head and she’s trying to develop it. Thanks to her best-seller status, literary agents have approached the family to represent Nia Mya. While Ladd-Reese hopes success doesn't go to her daughter's head, she feels thrilled by Nia Mya's accomplishments.
“I cannot even begin to explain how proud I am,” she said. "I always told her 'You are going to help a lot of people' ... I just didn’t know at 8 she was going to do it."