Monthly Archives: February 2013

Winner!

The winner of an ARC of the new MG sci-fi novel “Escape from the Pipe Men” is…

Maria Selke!

Thanks to all who entered.

Indie Spotlight: [words] Bookstore, Maplewood NJ

screenshot_627

Mixed-Up Files posts monthly interviews with the owners of children’s-only bookstores and there are still many more of those to feature, but I’ve recently discovered [words] bookstore in Maplewood, N.J. (wordsbookstore.com), a general independent bookstore with a strong emphasis on children’s books, and most importantly with a unique and hopeful mission. This is a bookstore with a heart, and I’m eager to spread the news. Today I’m talking with [words]Co-owner Jonah Zimiles.

[word] Co-owners Jonah and Ellen Zimiles

[word] Co-owners Jonah and Ellen Zimiles

MUF: I gather you first got into the bookstore business because the only bookstore in Maplewood was closing? How brave!
Jonah: Thank you. We have lived in Maplewood for twenty-three years and raised our two children here. When the economy deteriorated in the Fall of 2008, we wanted to find a way to help our community. My wife and son were walking in town when she saw a sign saying that the bookstore was closing in a month. Ellen thought that we should buy the bookstore, even though we did not have retail or book industry experience.

MUF: Your store has also taken on the unique mission “to help Maplewood become a model community of inclusion” by acknowledging and serving a special community, families with members on the autism spectrum. How did that come about?
Jonah: In addition to assisting our community buffeted by the recession, we were interested in providing a model vocational training program for young people with autism. Our hope is that through our bookstore, we will inspire other for-profit businesses to hire employees with autism. Our son, who is now 17, has autism. We have always found Maplewood to be a warm and welcoming community, and we wanted to play our part in furthering that culture.screenshot_639

MUF: Tell us about your “Second Sundays.”
Jonah: Our Second Sundays programs were created to provide parents of special needs children the opportunity to sample for free many activities that are often available for typical children but unfortunately not for the special needs population. At the same time, it allows us to acknowledge and publicize service providers who are offering these services or to give new ones considering this market a chance to try out working with our kids at our store. Activities include: yoga, karate, arts & crafts, drama, sewing and cooking, to name a few.screenshot_629

MUF: Not only do you welcome autism syndrome kids in your store and provide programs they can take part in, you also employ them as part-time workers and provide vocational training. Tell us how that works.
Jonah: Most of our kids come to us through job sampling programs in their school. They come in small groups with job coaches once or twice per week and progress through a series of jobs depending upon their skill levels and interests. We also have paid employees on our staff with autism.

MUF: Say a ten-year-old comes into your store looking for “a good book.” Do you have some favorite titles, fiction or nonfiction, that you are especially recommending to middle-graders right now?
Jonah: Our middle graders love Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney and Dan Gutman. One of our favorite books is R. J. Palacio’s Wonder.screenshot_631

MUF: I’ve just re-read Marcello in the Real World for a workshop. It seems there have been a slew of original and engaging novels for children in the last few years whose main characters are somewhere along the autism spectrum——Mockingbird, London Eye Mystery, The Blue Bottle Mystery, Colin Fisher — and that these stories have the positive side-effect of creating insight and understanding in the general reader. Are these books popular at your store? Have any of their authors come for a visit?
Picture 30Jonah: We have seven or eight autism authors visit our store for readings during April for Autism Awareness Month but these authors so far have been non-fiction authors. We have tried unsuccessfully to get Jodi Picoult to our store. Some of our favorites have included practitioners like Ricki Robinson, author of Autism Solutions, researchers like Martha Herbert, author of The Autism Revolution, and parents, like Priscilla Gilman, author of The Anti-Romantic Child: A Story of Unexpected Joy.

MUF: [Words] became an instant community center in another sense after Hurricane Sandy hit, didn’t it?

[words], a haven during Sandy

[words], a haven during Sandy


Jonah: Yes! Most of the power in our town (including in the homes of our owners and most of our employees) and the surrounding towns were knocked out for a week, but power was maintained on the block where [words] is located, so we became a community center to which people came to charge their cell phones and computers, learn the latest news, and to get some needed respite from the travails of the storm and the power outage.

MUF: If a family from out of town came to visit your store, would there be a family-friendly place nearby where they could get a bite to eat after browsing?
Jonah: Yes, dozens! Arturo’s across the street is extremely popular and delicious, and the Laurel offers a terrific relaxed atmosphere with great food.

MUF: And if they could spend some time in Maplewood, are there some family activities or sights in the area that they shouldn’t miss?
Jonah: In addition to our quaint village with many fine shops, we have a beautiful park in our town that is well worth a visit, as well as a gigantic nature preserve, the South Mountain reservation. Of course, the best reason to come to Maplewood is to meet the Maplewoodians!screenshot_636

MUF: Any exciting programs coming up in March?
Jonah: Many! Two are of particular note. On Saturday, March 2, we celebrate Read Across America, with a kids’ Pitchapalooza featuring four local children’s authors. On March 20, Harlan Coben kicks off his publicity tour for his exciting new thriller, Six Years.

MUF: Thank you so much , Jonah, for sharing the goals and programs of your store with us.

Readers, if you’re as inspired as I am to read about what Jonah and Ellen are doing at [words], I’m sure they’d love to hear your comments–and have you visit!screenshot_624

Sue Cowing is the author of the middle-grade puppet-and-boy novel, You Will Call Me Drog, published in 2011 by Carolrhoda Books and in 2012 by Usborne UK

 

 

 

Ruff Ruff READ!

We love to watch middle-graders emerge as fluent readers. No longer focused on decoding and sounding out every syllable, a strong reader basks in the glory of a great story.

39172114.thb

But reading doesn’t come easy for everyone– it was a huge struggle for me and look at me now! (Okay you can’t REALLY look at me but I’m a true blue book lover and an author.)

Many non-readers must break through two barriers to become book lovers- Confidence and Practice. But practice… that old try and try again… can lead to frustration instead of success. And confidence? How can emergent readers build that? These days an amazing reading scheme is spreading across the country, one I wish had been around when I was consigned to the Sparrow reading group. Known by various names including RUFF, BARK, Puppy Dog Tales, Reading With Rover and R.E.A.D. it all comes down to reading to a dog!

dog-reading-1

Cute, right? Reading aloud to a dog takes reading anxiety away… and replaces it with cuddles. Gentle reading dogs can boost a fearful child’s social skills, too, as he or she interacts with a friendly, engaged animal often for the first time.

imgres-1

But these programs are MUCH more than cute. They really work and their effectiveness has been clinically proven. Corrine Serra Smith wrote her doctoral dissertation analyzing a Sit Stay Read program in urban Chicago and found “students in the program group… gaining 8 words per minute more on average, but up to 14 words per minute more in some cases, than students in a comparison group. This represents a 20 percent improvement in the program group over the comparison group in oral reading fluency gain.”  A twenty percent fluency improvement- from reading to a dog! This can be life changing, transforming a child who avoids books and stumbles over words to a confident reading expert, ready to take on other classroom challenges and excel in language arts, history and even math lessons. Research has also been conducted at the University of California at Davis where in only ten weeks they found a thirty percent reading fluency improvement among home schooled students. Kids there said “I feel relaxed when I am reading to a dog because I am having fun” and “I felt like I was reading out loud faster and better.”

800(photo courtesy of UC Davis)

What sort of dogs can participate? In some communities certified therapy animals who’ve undergone extensive obedience and other training are preferred but other places welcome any calm, well behaved (and clean!) pet. The point is a safe non-judgmental audience.

What sort of kids can participate? Obviously not every person is a dog lover but any child who’s not allergic or exceptionally fearful can benefit from reading to a dog. You need not be a struggling reader to enjoy sharing a story with a man’s best friend. This is definitely an “all join in” activity. School and libraries across the country are inviting dogs to join their reading lessons. The question isn’t whether reading to a dog is a good idea. It’s where’s the program nearest you– or how can you form a new program for your middle-grade readers.

Ready to start? The Reading With Rover site has some great tips for founding your own dog reading program. In the Washington, DC area, where I live, you can contact People Animals Love. They operate a successful pet therapy programs, including reading to dogs, all over the metro DC area. The New York Public Library supports the R.E.A.D. program. Reading to a dog has even gone international with a fantastic program in Staffordshire, England! In fact there are too many independent programs to list. To find an existing program near you I’d recommend you do a Google search with “read to a dog” and the name of your own community.

From the Mixed-Up Files can even help, with a list of our favorite “no dogs die” dog books. What canine companion can resist Because Of Winn-Dixie?

Arf! Arf! What are you waiting for? Hook up that leash, crack open your favorite book, and get reading!

readingtopeanutcover-330

What book would you read to a dog?

Tami Lewis Brown is a big book and dog lover. Her three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels love hearing her read from her works in progress and aspire to be profession reading therapy dogs themselves.