Legendary ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, a grandfather of five and an advocate for early childhood development, has recently released the first in what will be a series of educational and inspirational books for children. Ascend Books published Vitale’s Dickie V’s ABCs and 1-2-3s: A Great Start for Young Superstars, a $14.95 picture book, on October 15. It is the inaugural title in the Dick Vitale Children’s Literacy Initiative and is Vitale’s first children’s book.

Dickie V’s ABCs and 1-2-3s is a 32-page, 6" x 8" board book with full color illustrations by Craig Lueck, who is an illustrator at Hallmark Cards. It teaches the alphabet through basketball words that Vitale uses in his national broadcasts (e.g., “D” is for “dunk” and “J” is for “jump”). The book has a button children can press to hear a recorded message from Vitale.

Ascend Books, which is in Overland Park, Kan., specializes in titles by well-known sports figures. In 2008, it published Dick Vitale’s Fabulous 50 Players and Moments in College Basketball. It has signed Vitale to six additional children’s titles, which will cover such issues as motivation, childhood obesity, bullying, and the importance of a positive attitude. The next book is slated for publication in fall 2011.

Ascend publisher Bob Snodgrass and Vitale are longtime friends and associates. Snodgrass first approached Vitale about writing a book for Ascend in 2008.