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Teacher's new chapter after defying the odds

MY BOOK AND ME: Ashley Hinds used his relationship with his nephew as inspiration for his children’s book, My Uncle and Me

A FORMER class clown who turned his life around to become a teacher has now turned his hand to providing inspiration to others by releasing a book.

The semi-autobiographical book, My Uncle and Me, was written by West Bromwich-based Ashley Hinds, 29, and documents fun, true-life experiences he has had with his nephew, Samuel, now aged four.

The book looks at how young Samuel copes with being compared to his uncle because they look the same, while struggling to establish his own identity.

The fun, rhyming children’s book is aimed at anyone who has experienced living their lives in someone else’s shadow.

“So much of what is in the book, actually happened,” Ashley told The Voice.

“I tried to make it as real as possible – even the illustrations are based on real family photographs.”

The unusual concept grew out of the way both man and boy were perceived.

“Before I wrote the book, it seemed as though everyone around me was having children,” Ashley said.

“Samuel looks so much like me and behaves like I did when I was his age, so much so that people saw him as my own son.

“I would take him out and expose him to positive new experiences and really enjoy our time together. He even gets called Ashley!”

To those who knew Ashley in his formerly mischievous days, they may have been surprised at him becoming an author – but not the man himself.

“I always thought about writing a book,” Ashley mused. “I came across a friend who had written a book a couple of years ago. That motivated me to write my own.

“There weren’t and still aren’t many black male primary school teachers, so I thought perhaps it would serve as inspiration to some.”

ROLE MODEL: Ashley Hinds' book, My Uncle and Me

Ashley unashamedly admits leaving school without any formal qualifications.

Recalling his lack of focus at that time, he added: “Around the time of the exams, the cool kids didn’t work hard, so I didn’t. I was among the more intelligent kids in junior school but I got into pranks and mess- ing about in secondary school.

“Once I felt a teacher was rude to me, I wouldn’t work in their classes.”

The turning point came when Ashley had a conversation with his father, who explained that the only way he was going to achieve was through finding what he enjoyed and pursuing it.

This conversation along with his passion for physical education, spurred him on and resulted in him proceeding to study towards a BTEC for four years, leaving college with high results and then getting a degree and a post graduate certificate in teaching.

Now working as a PE teacher in secondary school, Ashley’s most recent career venture has seen him being offered as many speaking and PR opportunities as he can handle.

“Most people know that teachers have a heavy workload, but I don’t bring too much work home and I try to balance. But there is so much pulling on my time,” he said.

“The book has given me many opportunities to share my story of hope, with a message that everyone can achieve if they work hard, so they should not be afraid to dream big.”

With My Uncle and Me retailing locally as well as on Amazon, Ashley’s profile is being raised with the help of the internet and social media, with one particular video he shared on Facebook gaining some 46,000 views.

However, while Ashley is relishing his new-found status as a popular published author, he recalled an instance of his nephew’s indifference to the book shocked him!

“On the day after the launch, I mentioned the book to him while he was watching television.

“He turned to me and asked, ‘What book?!’.

“It was like he shot me down with his words!

“I suppose he is too young to take it in that his experiences are the subject of a book that is doing so well.”

Entrepreneurial Ashley is already nurturing ideas for a follow-up book next summer.

My Uncle and Me is available on Amazon and at selected bookshops.

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