When USC graduate and “FOX & Friends” TV co-host Ainsley Earhardt found out last year she was expecting her first child, she decided to make a written declaration of love to her child.
Inspired by her own childhood and inspirational notes her father would write to her before school each morning, Earhardt wrote “Take Heart, My Child: A Mother’s Dream” – a lyrical lullaby in which she shares her own hopes and dreams and lets her child know that whatever challenges life brings, “Take heart my child I will – or my love will – always be there for you.”
“I want my daughter, and all children who read this book, to know she can ‘take heart’ and know she will always be loved unconditionally,” Earhardt said. “After the birth of my daughter, I wanted to give her something like what my father had given to my siblings and me. This book is my love letter to her, to let her know that she will always be empowered, protected and cherished.”
A native of the Upstate, Earhardt moved to Columbia as an elementary student. She graduated from Spring Valley High School before going on to the University of South Carolina, where she received a degree in journalism.
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After working with Columbia TV station WLTX, she moved on to FOX News in New York, where she has contributed on a number of the network’s programs.
“I will be forever grateful to the viewers, teachers, mentors, friends and family in South Carolina,” Earhardt said in a recent interview with The State. “It was the perfect place for me to grow up and I bring my daughter back to the great state as often as I can. New York might be my residence, but South Carolina will always be my heart.”
Here, Earhardt talks about growing up in South Carolina, her new book, and the joys of her life today – chiefly, her daughter Hayden, who celebrated her first birthday Nov. 6.
Earhardt will return home to Columbia later this month to sign copies of “Take Heart, My Child” at Barnes & Noble on Forest Drive.
I understand a major inspiration for this book was notes your father would write to you every morning when you were growing up. Tell me about those.
Earhardt: My mother is an incredible lady who devoted her life to being a wife, mom and school teacher, which meant she left for work very early to be in the classroom. Therefore, my father was in charge of feeding three children – my sister, brother and me – and making sure we made it to school on time. Often, he drove the carpool and always prepared creative, fun breakfasts. Each morning, we walked into the kitchen to find three bowls and cereal boxes displayed neatly, a gallon of milk and notes next to the cereal bowls. The notes were famous sayings, scriptures or poems encouraging us to have positive attitudes, do the right thing, never quit and be grateful for our tremendous blessings. He had a unique way of teaching us the importance of perspective, making the best of every situation and being thankful. Dad was a former college basketball coach. Coaching his family came naturally, and I wanted to share those messages with the world.
You wrote “Take Heart, My Child” while pregnant with your daughter. How has becoming a mother changed your perspective?
Earhardt: I wanted a baby so badly. In the weeks prior to giving birth, a final copy of “Take Heart, My Child” was sent to me by my publisher, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. I opened up the first copy and intentionally read it in my child’s nursery. I sat in her rocking chair, knowing I would meet my child soon, and flipped through each page. As I read the words out loud I wept. I cried tears of happiness – so grateful for the life God had given me, the parents who raised me and the team who helped me with “Take Heart, My Child.” It was so surreal and my life’s blessings scrolled through my mind. I had my dream job, a life in Manhattan, a great family, a healthy baby on the way and a children’s book being published. I was overcome with happiness and gratitude.
The illustrations and imagery in the book are beautiful. Are those the products of your illustrator or did you have the images in mind and convey those to Jaime?
Earhardt: Jaime Kim is clearly a talented artist. This is her first published project and she has already been recognized for her “Take Heart, My Child” illustrations with The Original Art 2016 Award, which celebrates the fine art of children’s book illustrations. Jaime and I worked closely: she included art that reminded me of my childhood. For instance, the illustrations of the large beaches take me back to summers on the South Carolina coast. The butterflies serve as a reminder of my maternal grandfather who lived in Greenville. He loved Monarch butterflies and taught me all about them, convincing me to do my second grade insect project on the Monarch. “Pop” told me to think of him every time a Monarch flies around me. So, when Jaime included butterflies, I knew this was a good fit. The big trees remind me of the Southern magnolias we climbed as children and the deer take me back to the late-night drives as a family on Kiawah Island every summer.
What is your favorite part of the book?
Earhardt: There are a few themes that especially resonate with me from “Take Heart, My Child.” The first page of the book starts with, “Before you were born, before you came to be, I dreamed a love song on a butterfly sea.” I love those words because it a good reminder of the hopes, dreams and prayers I had for Hayden, my little girl, before she was born. It reminds me of the waiting period I went through and then the blissful excitement of learning I was going to have a baby. There are other lines, like, “If you get lost in the ocean’s vast tide, take heart, my child, I’ll be by your side.” Or “May you take the high road though the road may be long, pledge to follow your heart so your heart will grow strong,” and “May you strive to be happy, change your course if you’re not. Embrace the world’s colors, colors others forgot.” ... I want my daughter (and all children who read this book) to know she can “take heart” and know she will always be loved unconditionally.
What was life like for you growing up in South Carolina?
Earhardt: I had the best childhood. I began my life in the Upstate. Dad was the basketball coach at Wofford College in Spartanburg and my mother was a school teacher. We moved to Columbia when I was in fourth grade and I immediately made loyal, lifelong friends. I was active in theater and sports and had the best years at Spring Valley High School. I went on to pursue a degree in biology at Florida State University and transferred into the journalism school at the University of South Carolina. I got my first TV job at the local, CBS Affiliate, WLTX-News19, and worked there as a reporter and then the morning/noon anchor for five years. The Midlands supported my career from the beginning and gave me the courage and confidence to continue in broadcasting.
I understand you will donate a portion of the book sale proceeds to Folds of Honor. Tell me about your connection to this organization.
Earhardt: Folds of Honor is a very special organization. Maj. Dan Rooney was returning home from his second tour of duty in Iraq (an F-16 fighter pilot in the Oklahoma Air National Guard) and became painfully aware of the reality families face when a loved one in uniform is killed or wounded. ... In 2007, he formed the Folds of Honor Foundation, a 501C-3 nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to the families of these heroic Americans. Since then, Folds of Honor has carried forth this singular, noble mission: To stand in the financial gap of the more than one million dependents adversely affected by war, providing educational scholarships to the children and spouses of those killed or disabled while serving our nation.
Book signing with Ainsley Earhardt
SC native and FOX & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt will come home to Columbia for a signing of her new children’s book, “Take Heart My Child.”
When: 1 p.m., Nov. 26
Where: Barnes & Noble, 3400 Forest Drive in Forest Acres