Q & A

Founder of Famous Amos cookiesWally ‘Famous’ AmosFrom Cookie Entrepreneur to Literacy Advocate

{mosimage}Even though he no longer is associated with his namesake company, Wally Amos will forever be inextricably linked with Famous Amos cookies. After all, his expressive face still is emblazoned on the company’s bags. But in addition to creating tasty cookie treats, he has been a vocal literacy advocate for 27 years, touring the country and creating programs designed to address children’s and adult literacy through his Chip and Cookie Read Aloud Foundation. In addition, he has hosted an adult education series for PBS, traveled as a motivational speaker, authored several books, served as a product spokesmanand started another cookie company.

Amos was born in Tallahassee and lived here until he was 12. He then moved to New York City to live with his aunt and later became a theatrical agent before opening his cookie company. He would eventually lose the business, along with the rights to his own name – an experience that would help redefine his life.

Amos, who now lives in Hawaii, returned to Tallahassee recently to read to youngsters and present “Smart Cookie” awards at two local schools. While in town, he took time to speak with Mackenzie Turberville for Tallahassee Magazine.

TM: How did the reading with the kids go today?

WA: Fantastic. Those kids were so wonderful.

TM: When did you become literacy advocate, and why do you think it’s so important?

WA: In 1979 I became spokesperson for an organization called Literacy Volunteers of America. I wanted to do something to affect as many people as possible, not just a particular group. I didn’t realize adult literacy was such a problem, even though my mom and dad couldn’t read. Really, I’m still working on adult literacy, because the only viable solution to adult illiteracy is reading aloud to children at an early age.

TM: What about your collaboration with the Boys and Girls Clubs?

WA: I entered into a partnership with them to promote Read Aloud. I’m very excited about that connection. They touch a lot of kids’ lives every day.

TM: Several studies have shown that recreational reading is on the decline in America. What do you think is behind this?

WA: Television, videogames, our obsession with working. There are so many distractions. TM: What can parents do to encourage reading, and how do they compete with other entertainment?

TM: What can parents do to encourage reading, and how do they compete with other entertainment?

WA: They don’t compete with it, because the parent controls the TV. Make your kids earn the right to watch TV. Create reading times with your children. Find out what your child is interested in and make those books available to him or her, or magazines or newspaper articles, and minimize TV time. TM: How did adversity help shape your life?

TM: How did adversity help shape your life?

WA: Going through challenges makes you stronger and gives you insight, but you have to learn from them. Don’t just slide through it; look at it, review it.

TM: How does it feel to be back in Tallahassee?

WA: It feels great. We’re going to make reading aloud a household name in Tallahassee.

Categories: Quick Reads