The kids call her Campbell Soup. And children’s book expert Sue Campbell certainly does radiate genuine warmth and interest when she talks about the joys of reading. Campbell runs school book fairs for local bookseller Book Passage and reads about 100 books a month so she can keep up with the young readers she serves.
“Between the book fairs and the store, I’ve already met with about 6,000 kids this year,” says Campbell. “You can’t fake it with them when you’re talking about a book they’ve read.”
Parents and children at Brookside School had the chance meet and talk with Campbell at school’s recent Winter Wonderland Book Fair, which benefits YES. Fifteen percent of the book fair’s proceeds went to the foundation, which provides school libraries with annual funding for new books. (See note below about continuing donations from Book Passage through December 17th.) During the weeklong event, Campbell met with all Brookside classes and also held a “Book Chat” with parents. Her message emphasized the continuing importance of reading for education and learning.
She relayed two important facts. One: reading just 20 minutes a day increases a child’s vocabulary by one million words a year. Two: reading actually creates and grows neural networks—in other words, it makes brains grow. The studies that are the source of this data were done with paper and ink books. Campbell says that similar research hasn't been done on e-readers so the jury is still out on whether or not they deliver equal benefits. Campbell is certainly no Luddite; she supports using technology as an information tool but isn’t so sure it’s the right choice for reading. She notes that tablets like the Kindle Fire and iPad come with a lot of distractions like games, Internet access and streaming video.
Campbell also reminded parents that books and reading are just plain fun. “The right books will make kids excited about reading,” said Campbell. Among her top picks from this year’s crop of newly published children's literature are “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate and the “Five Lives of Zook” by Joanne Rocklin. For boys, she’s found that titles like “Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombie” by Bill Doyle are appealing. (For more great recommendations see Book Passages recommended children's books at their online store.)
“I always tell parents to stop worrying about a book being too violent,” advises Campbell. “Kids can handle it. I joke with the kids that we need to whisper about the books like ‘Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombie’ so the parents don’t get scared.”
This is the third year that Brookside has partnered with Book Passage and is one of a 17 Marin schools that have opted to work with Book Passage to run their book fairs. Working with Campbell and Book Passage offers schools a high-quality alternative opportunity to the one size fits all approach of book fair purveyor Scholastic. For schools like Brookside that want to celebrate reading and emphasize the importance of books, Book Passage is the right choice.
“We made the change because Book Passage is a local independent book store and they offer great selection of books from multiple publishers,” says Brookside parent volunteer and book fair coordinator Liz Chambers. “Sue Campbell hand picks the books she brings and she is so helpful with matching up great books with kids interests.”
Note: Book Passage will continue to donate 15% of sales to Brookside through December 17th. Just mention Brookside when you're paying for your books at the store or enter "Brookside" for online purchases.