Leland Melvin's 'Chasing Space' Inspires Kids to Dream Big

Meet Leland Melvin – football star, NASA astronaut, professional dream chaser. And now: published author of Chasing Space. His life story is truly inspiring, but there is so much to absorb that he and his publishers wisely created a companion Young Readers’ Edition to go along with the general release version of his book. Melvin’s can-do attitude and amazing accomplishments certainly make him an ideal role model for kids.

I first heard about him a couple of years ago when his official NASA portrait-taking session went viral. The space program's tradition was temporarily turned on his ear when this dog lover turned the supposed-to-be-serious moment into a family photo session with his pets. Attired in his orange NASA space suit, Melvin flashed a big smile as he got a snuggle from his dogs, Jake and Scout. It wasn’t long before the snapshot went viral (and naturally, became the cover of his book).

Melvin is a fascinating fellow: He is the only person drafted into the National Football League to have flown in space. The Pro Football Hall of Fame honored his athletic and academic accomplishments by placing his Detroit Lions jersey under glass in Canton, Ohio. He traveled off-planet twice on Space Shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station, and holds four honorary doctorates for his service in education, the sciences, and philanthropy. He was chosen as an ICON MANN along with Quincy Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Steve Harvey and 24 other men selected for their ability to inspire people of all ages through their vision and commitment to creating positive change throughout the world. (As for the dog’s accomplishments, well… Jake appeared in an episode of The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan, who helped him overcome his overzealousness.)

Melvin’s memoir invites readers to learn about the fascinating creative and scientific challenges he had to deal with in space and will no doubt encourage the next generation of can-do scientists to dare to follow their dreams. With DIY experiments in the back of the book and sixteen pages of full-color pics, this is the perfect book for youngsters looking to be inspired.

What’s more, the book is well-written: “When you look at the Earth from the vantage point of space, our planet looks like a little blue marble. Seeing our world from that vantage point cognitively changes you. My orbital shift happened after breaking bread with my space station crewmates and my shuttle crewmates. It showed me how close we are as countries, as races, as a species. I marveled that on Earth we have all these distances and separations and geographic boundaries, but they vanish quickly in the weightless interior of the space station.” He does a great job of describing moments most of us will never experience.

Chasing Space Young Readers’ Edition is recommended for kiddos 8 – 12 years old. That really is the perfect target range, because while the book isn’t hard to understand, it is 240 pages long and details his tragedies (he went completely deaf for a period of time) and his many triumphs. There’s an audio version, too.

Will you read Chasing Space with the kids? What are some inspiring books your kids have read lately? Share with us!

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