Pennie Rich Publishing

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Non-Reader helps, Literacy Programs and Pennie Rich Publishing; opening doors to a new life

When I was young, or at least younger, I had a friend named Tim. His mother would always go places and help him because he was "unable to learn." She got him enrolled in all the available programs that would help him get a job, get special help and anything else that a "slow person" could sign up for.

A job came up at the place I was working and I spoke to the managers, who agreed to interview Tim. The time came and "along came Mommy!"

Having been told of "Tim's condition" the management was understanding and decided to offer him the job, but "Mommy" quickly pointed out that, "since he is enrolled in the State program for handicapped individuals," they did not have to pay him the full wage, but could pay an entry level wage and as he "trained" they could slowly increase the pay.

Tim had completed a program at the local college, which qualified him for the full wage, but since "Mommy" suggested the lower wages, the company quickly picked up on it and signed him on as a "Handicapped Worker."

This injustice that happens over and over again. We want to protect, or maintain our "place of importance" and in doing so perpetuate the feeling of helplessness of so many who, with a little help and encouragement could attain much more than they are allowed to.

Many years later, Tim and his wife were at an expo and he stopped at a booth that had some books displayed. One of the workers asked him if he would like to sign up to help someone learn how to read.

"I would like to learn to read myself, I wish someone would teach me," was Tim's reply.

There was an article in the newspaper with pictures of Tim and the person who taught him to read. Most of Tim's problems stemmed from the fact that he could not read. He was not "handicapped" by anything other than the fact that he was not given a chance.

How many people do you know who are "functionally illiterate?" How many people do you know that are covering up the fact they can't read and are afraid to say anything because of embarrasment?

I know none of them are reading this post, because they can't, but if you are reading it and know of anyone you even suspect can't read, please offer to help them. Look for a reading program and get them some help. They may resist, but don't take no for an answer. If you can get them started it will open the world to them. It did for Tim.

At Pennie Rich Publishing, we insist that each book have an Audio Book component. Children who have the book can play the Audio Book and read along and parents who cannot read can listen, follow along and in doing so, will begin to see that reading is a possibility.

If someone is in need, would you offer to help them? Change a tire, repair a roof, clean the house of someone who is ill, provide a meal for a family whose mother is sick? Then why not offer to help someone learn to read and open the door to a new life?

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Monday, August 24, 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Several things have happened lately that have left me wondering exactly what is happening in education.

I heard of a Superintendent of Schools who, after a grant was awarded to build a new computer lab, did not pay the grant writer for his services. The Superintendent paid himself, saying that while the grant writer had tried, the award was made on a grant submitted by the Superintendent. The Superintendent, shortly thereafter, purchased a new private automobile.

I also heard of a Superintendent who, after the school system was awarded a very large grant for the Elementary School Reading Program, used a part of the funds for sports equipment and when the Elementary Principal tried to purchase books, she was told there was no money.

Another Superintendent of Schools visited a small, rural school and announced there were "too many books in the library" and "get rid of them" was his solution. When he heard that Dr. P. J. Nickels would be visiting the school to present copies of her books to the students, his response was, "Oh great! More books!" My question: "How can there be too many books for children to read and learn from?"

I have heard that another school district is hiding two million dollars they have skimmed off of funds from their state. "It's for a rainy day." Speaking of rainy days, each time it rained, the Elementary Principal, teachers and custodian had to place waste baskets around the school to catch the drips from the leaking roof. (They were applying for an emergency grant to repair the roof.) This same school district would not fire a Superintendent who had numerous sexual harrassment charges brought to the board because, "we would have to buy out his contract."

On the bright side, one Superintendent wanted a new computer and laptop. He pushed the district to allocate funds to upgrade computers for the schools and had his "wish list" included. He called it a "win/win" solution.

What can patrons of a School District do to stop the abuse by Superintendents who are all about themselves and their agendas and not about the children and learning.

The answer, nothing as long as School Boards are more worried about Sports Championships than reading, math and the other core subjects.

The small, rural districts seem to be the ones getting the low ratings the majority of the time. Could the fact that funds in these districts are not being used properly and small district administrators think no one will check up on them be because they are a long distance from the Office of the State Dept. of Education be the reason for this abuse of power? That seems to be the prevailing attitude in many rural district's.

Don't get me wrong, there are many small school districts performing very well and whose students have a high rate of attending institutuions of higher learning, but there are many more who hire Superintendents who are lacking in the abilities it takes to run a district and seem to let them work without any supervision or allow the superintendent to "take over" not only the running of the schools, but the School Board's duties as well.

Take a look at your schools ratings, not if they have a great football or basketball team, but if the students score well on the Standardized tests (don't get me started on that one) and if there are a majority of students going to college and trade schools.

That is, if you can even get the stats. If you can't find the information, attend the school board meetings and watch what happens. Many of the Boards are "rubber stamp boards," where one person makes all the decisions and the "board sitters" agree to whatever is presented.

It is time to become involved, but understand, you are in for a long, uphill battle and many hours, days, weeks and years of dissapointment and frustration.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Vultures in the Cemetery Review by Don Blankenship - The Ozarks

D. Blankenship (The Ozarks)
Vultures in the Cemetery by P.J. Nickels is a delightfully told story of a little chipmunk who lives with his family in an old cemetery deep in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Little Chipmunk and his family are a part of a thriving animal community in this old place of rest, with neighbors such as squirrels, owls, foxes, doves, magpies and yes, each spring, "mangy and ugly looking vultures," as Little Chipmunk proclaimed them much to his mother's dismay. And on this statement, the author hangs her story.
Now before we go on, for those of you that are not familiar with old cemeteries, they are not the scary and creepy places that we have been led to believe they are. No, no, no! If you take the time, and I promise you it will be an enjoyable time, to hang around one of these old sites, you will find that they invariably contain an entire ecosystem within their confines. For years I have, as a hobby, been a nature photographer; flowers, birds, lizards, frogs, toads, snakes, and critters of all sizes and shapes. They are actually wonderful places to hang around. Also, being a birder of 50 years, I have found these old places absolutely alive with birds and often seek them out for that purpose. But for the purposes of this book, it is sort of a stroke of genius on the author's part to use this as a setting, as kids are drawn to such places in their literature and they are also drawn to "ugly vultures...yuk" like flies to honey; more about that later. You have to get their attention, i.e. the kids, before you can get them to read the book. Now that being said.....
Little Chipmunk does not listen to Mother Chipmunk and soon comes face to face with a member of the vulture family who happened to overhear the insults of the previous day. The young vulture's feelings have been hurt. The other animals of this little community also soon hear of Little Chipmunks unkind and thoughtless remarks and are quite put out. Of course word gets back to Mother Chipmunk about her son's behavior and after thinking it over; she contacts the other animals to help in teaching Little Chipmunk a valuable lesson in life. Now as all of you know, I never ever include spoilers in my reviews so I will stop. Trust me though; our little stripped, cheeky, furry friend does indeed learn his lesson!
This is an extremely well written and well told tale that simply overflows with lessons. Of course the first and most important lesson taught is that we all should accept everyone no matter what their physical appearance. It is not bad to be different, and in fact it is a good thing that we all are. Along with this moral lesson, we also have a number of wonderful little natural history lessons that can be worked in here and there by a parent or teacher. I was personally gratified that the author used vultures as one of her central themes and made them into the "good guys." Vultures are one of my favorite birds and I have always felt they deserved better, respect wise, than they normally receive. I have encountered many a dolt in my life who goes out is his or her way to kill these wonderful animals simply "because they are ugly." Mindless! Maybe this will help change the attitude of some of the young who will read this work.
The author has used a mellow, almost "down home" conversational style to tell her tale and it is quite effective. Her universal syntax should appeal to all. The story flows evenly from beginning to end and is extremely easy to follow and is quite logical. Also in the text we find dozens of side bars that can be use to start any number of discussions with the child reading the book. Ms. Nickels is a very talented writer and obviously a natural story teller. And speaking of talent....
The art work in this book by Anita Saunders will quite stun you. While the art is certainly child friendly, each animal or bird depicted is completely anatomically correct, something I am quite fanatical about. Visually her backgrounds are very pleasing to the eye and do not distract from her central subject, a flaw you often see in children's books. Each painting goes perfectly with the text and enhances it.
The actual book, physically, like all the books I have seen from this company, is well made and will be able to take quite a beating from the wee ones. The book is a heavy duty quality paperback!
This is a perfect read a long book for the class room or home. I am not sure which reading level it has been designated yet, but I would guess from late preschool through 4th grade would hit it pretty close. This is the sort of work that can handle multiple readings by an adult without having the adult's eyes roll to the back of their head after twenty or thirty requested rereads, an believe me, this one will get those requests!
This one needs to be in every child's library and should certainly be found in school and public libraries. This is good stuff folks, give it a read!
Don Blankenship
The Ozarks

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ten years ago today, July 17, 1999, my mother, Arlene Black Hughes passed away. As I walked through the cemetery near my home this morning, I thought about her and the impact she made on me.
As a 7 year old, confined to bed, no television, no video games, no internet, I discovered, thanks to my Mom, the joy of reading and the world it opens up.
She brought me books, simple ones at first and then more challenging ones, until I was reading books that many of those my age probably have not even read today. As I finished each book, she would sit and discuss what I had read, what I understood and explored the various topics, helping reinforce what I had just experienced.
In her last years she came to live with me and my wife, Jeanie, who became her main caregiver. Jeanie was attending college and Mom, who had never had the chance to go, went to classes with her. As Jeanie cooked dinner at the end of a long day, Mom would sit and read the assigned reading to her. On test day, Mom would ask, "What grade did we get."
I just want to say, "Thanks Mom, for opening the world of literature and literacy to me."
I know she would be very proud to know that today Jeanie and I are writing and publishing books that will help others learn to read and guides that ask those same questions Mom asked and reinforce the reading, just like she would....

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Unforgettable Summertime Cry, "I am borded!"

I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and fun 4th of July weekend. This marks the official beginning of "young ones home" for the Summer. What are the three most famous and dreaded summer words we hear? The unforgettable cry of the summer school vacationers. "I am bored!"

Once we hear those three words we whip out a calendar and begin counting off the days until the kids return to school. But wait! No so fast! I have some life saving Summer tips.

As a mother of six, grandmother of seven and former Elementary School Principal who developed and ran summer school programs I have some tips for you all.

1. Employ all the little ones as your "Official Helpers." Give them things to do, keeping them close, which allows you to listen to them out of one ear, keep an eye on them and enter into conversation, while you are trying to get a few things done. i.e: I have a number of editing and writing projects I am responsible for and have deadlines. One was this "Summer Tip Sheet." At this very moment my granddaughter is sitting next to me with a TV tray, chair, a lap top and she is working with me in my office. She is writing a book. We will publish her book. She is so excited. She is writing, doing artwork. Talking to me and every once in a while I reach over and we do some edits. Ashleah is 10. But, here we are and she is happy doing an actual writing project. Now, if I would have told her to sit down and write a story, I can guarantee she would have thrown the biggest fit on earth. Instead we have a project, a purpose, and we will have an end product. Her own published book.

2. Playing libraray: How to get kids to read. Yuck, I hated reading...mostly, because I could not read as a child. I know many of you go to the library. However, there are people who are not able to get out and take the kids to the library, but you can bring the library to you. Order some inexpensive books on the Internet. Go to yard sales and find books, look all around the house and collect all the children's books laying around. Shop on Amazon, eBay, or Now, have the child or children set up their own library. Kids love to role play, so have someone be the librarian. That child tells the others what a book is about or perhaps they have a reading corner and someone reads a book out loud. They can check books out, take them to a quiet place they choose and have reading time. They create the library, they touch the books, they become an active part of the reading project.

3. Playing school: Children set up a classroom. Provide a white board, school supplies and let them set chairs up. The best way to learn is to teach. One child is a teacher who teaches math, another child teaches art, another short story telling and small rewrite of the story ending. You can have recess, lunch etc. They love school, when it is "their's".

4. Games: Have loads of games around. Children today do not know how to play dominoes, cards games and many can't play board games. Get them back in touch with the social and mental process of playing games, which are not on a computer.

5. Lesson Guides: Have materials around which have pre-written lesson plans, so you don't have to kill yourself off trying to come up with activities. I have written books which have lesson guides with them. They have audio books and music for children to learn to sing. These can go in the car.

6. Hide and Seek: Hiding all types of things is a great way to have fun. We hide flash cards, books (short fun reads), we hide words for vocabulary and spelling. It is fast fun and a way to have every family member interacting.

The entire trick behind a fun, successful and educational Summer is to keep everyone's minds active. Active minds mean peace, learning, success and happiness in your household. Also, try exchanging kids with other parents, so grownups can have a day to themselves. Work with families from your church, neighborhood or home school groups. Everyone needs breaks from each other. Have a great summer!

For more tips or if you feel you are sinking contact me at or go to

Dr. Maynard Williams

Dr. Maynard Williams is now writing the music for the Land Far Away audio book. The story written by Judy Langley was originally published as 5 separate books, but are being combined into one volume.
Maynard has written a theme song, entitled "Bushland Ballet" and 5 more songs, one for each chapter of the book.
In addition, Maynard is working on several more projects for PrP and a Christmas CD of original songs to be released in time for Christmas 2009.
His work for PrP can be heard on the Audio Books for Nuni of Nunivak Island, A New Friend; Lewis the Lemur Adventures, The Belly of the Beast; Vultures in the Cemetery and Stanley the Christmas Tree, A Wish Come True, all available at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Paul Mackenzie, "The Choice Voice, The Voice Choice," is working on several new projects for Pennie Rich Publishing.
Paul has been burning the midnight oil, doing the voices for Randy Cohen's book, DD and Daddy's Big Night Out and Dr. Alma Golden's, Coffee Bean Bandit story. He will soon start on Judy Langley's, Land Far Away book.
Everyone is very excited to hear his work on these projects and we know it will be wonderful.
Paul's ability to create voices that actually make the listener see the character come to life brings the story full circle.
The Audio Books for the Nuni, Lewis the Lemur and Vultures books will be released soon. Pre-orders are being taken now at

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