Saving the Reluctant Reader

During school visits I make it a point to ask the question, "Who likes to read?" Many enthusiastic hands always shoot up, but it has never been unanimous. It doesn't matter what state I'm visiting, it doesn't matter if the school is public or private, some children admit they do not enjoy reading. What can be done to entice those children to read?

First of all, don't panic. Figure out why the child shuns reading. Start with the most basic explanation by checking for physical impairments. Perhaps the words look blurry to the child. Maybe the letters run together or get switched around. An organic problem can make reading a frustrating experience.

Take a look at the reading material that is available to the child. Books are not "one size fits all". Children have different personalities and interests. Some children enjoy fiction, while others like non-fiction. Some devour graphic novels. How-to and do-it-yourself books can be of especially high interest to elementary age children. Let your child sample a variety of genres.

Make reading a habit. It's never too soon to start reading to your child. Even if the child is too young to follow a story, hold him on your lap and read. The child will learn to associate reading with love and comfort. Continue to read aloud to your child as he grows. Chapter books make great bedtime rituals for older kids. Even independent readers can enjoy a great read-aloud.

As an author and a lover of books, I want to encourage all children to read. When I'm at a school and I encounter those kids who say they don't like reading, I tell them it's because they haven't yet discovered the right book. The right book is out there for each child. Be a hero and help those reluctant readers find that book.

My goal is to see all the hands go up when I ask, "Who likes to read?"



Premiere Magazine

Premiere Magazine included my most recent book signing for Treasure in Catclaw Canyon in their September issue. This photo from the magazine included Tracie Taylor, a long time friend and parent of a former student. Many thanks to Tracie and all the others who took time to attend. It was a fun day at the Greene County Library.



Teacher Guide Now Available in Paperback

Good news for those who prefer to hold a physical book in their hands. Treasure in Catclaw Canyon Teacher's Guide e-book is now joined by a paperback version. This teacher guide is a classroom companion for the novel Treasure in Catclaw Canyon. 

The guide includes a vocabulary list, discussion questions with an answer key for each chapter, extension activities, as well as an art and craft section.

The paperback teacher guide is available here.
Suggested for use in third through sixth grades.



Readers' Favorite Five Star Review

I awoke this morning to this wonderful review of Treasure in Catclaw Canyon from Readers' Favorite Review. 

For immediate release:
Author's new book receives a warm literary welcome.
Readers' Favorite announces the review of the Children - Adventure book "Treasure in Catclaw Canyon" by Anita Stafford, currently available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1081739452.
Readers' Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the "Best Websites for Authors" and "Honoring Excellence" awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.
"Reviewed By Gail Kamer for Readers' Favorite
Treasure in Catclaw Canyon: The Legend of Sassafras House, Volume 2 by Anita Stafford is the story of a boy who misses his father and believes the best of him when that might be a questionable action. It’s a tale of stolen items and a treasure map. Kale discovers a painting in a local store. This painting was stolen and Kale believes he needs to rescue it. He believes a treasure map he has will lead to gold and thus help him pay for it. Kale is interviewed by a local newspaper about other money he found, which brings his absent father back into his life. Where has his dad been for six years and why does he show up now? Can Kale find the treasure? A unique ending awaits you.

Many children miss absent parents and wonder what they did to cause them to stay away. Treasure in Catclaw Canyon: The Legend of Sassafras House, Volume 2 by Anita Stafford is a great resource for discussing these feelings. Written in the first person, in easy to read text, the mystery of a treasure map lures in young readers. Anita Stafford connects the plot with the analogy of the domino and butterfly effects to add dimension to the storyline, along with great foreshadowing of events to come. In addition, Anita Stafford supplies a link to a teacher’s guide. I recommend Treasure in Catclaw Canyon for school counselors and for parents dealing with this issue. A wonderful story!"
You can learn more about Anita Stafford and "Treasure in Catclaw Canyon" at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/treasure-in-catclaw-canyon where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.
Readers' Favorite LLC
Media Relations
Louisville, KY 40202


Book Reviews

An author needs reviews as much as a fish needs water. Reviews are essential in the book business. Not only do authors like to receive feedback, potential readers want to know what everyone else thinks about a book.

Even when readers love a book, the reviews may be hard to come by. This is especially true for children's books. A kid might like to leave a review, but most kids don't have the means to do so. Children's authors must depend on parents to leave a review for their child.

Sometimes parents aren't really sure what to say in a review. Honest reviews are the best. If you don't know what to say, just ask your child. Ask what he liked or didn't like about the book. Use the child's words in the review. Good or bad, the author will benefit from hearing honesty.

Most online sellers use a 5 star system for book reviews. Assigning a number of stars may be confusing to some. Here's my own general interpretation for ranking a children's book.

5 stars = I would definitely recommend this book for kids.
4 stars = Kids would probably enjoy this book.
3 stars = This is an okay book for kids.
2 stars = There's probably not much kids would like about this book.
1 star = I wouldn't recommend this book for kids.

I want to know what my readers think. Reviews are how I find out. You don't even have to buy the book to leave a review. You can review a book that you received free or checked out of a library.



Books Are Alive and Well

I was overwhelmed with the turnout at my recent book signing. One particular attendee was a young man I met last year while visiting a middle school. He told me he had read The Legend of Sassafras House, and that he wanted to buy book #2 in the series, Treasure in Catclaw Canyon. Those were sweet words to my ears.

I've heard several people complain that family members are preoccupied by video games and/or social media. I know those things can, and have, become an obsession for some. However, judging from the number of people who came to the book signing, I am confident that my community is full of readers. Before you label a person, consider that looks can be deceiving. There could be something of substance on that screen.

Although nothing can replace traditional books for me, e-books are a popular alternative. If you see me staring at my tablet or phone, I'm likely reading a book. I have a large collection of e-books in my library. I also use the Libby app to check out electronic books from the public library.

The Legend of Sassafras House and Treasure in Catclaw Canyon are available in both paperback and electronic versions. So, whether you're a reader who wants a book on a screen or one to hold in your hands, there's something for everyone. All kinds of books are alive and well.

Photo credit: Paragould Daily Press



August Book Signing

Want to know something authors fear? 

One thing is having a book signing that no one attends. I can't say this has ever happened to me, but it could. It's a nightmare-quality fear.

I'm going to take a chance that something like that won't happen, though. I'll be signing books at the Greene County Library in Paragould on Monday, August 12. I'll be there from 10:00 a.m. until 12 noon. I'll bring books 1 and 2 of the Sassafras House series. This includes The Legend of Sassafras House and Treasure in Catclaw Canyon. 

I hope old friends, new friends, relatives, and in-laws will all have a chance to attend. Bring a kid with you. These books are suited for ages 8- to 12-years. I'm looking forward to seeing you there. 📘😊



Treasure in Catclaw Canyon Released

Kids who enjoyed The Legend of Sassafras House 
will be excited to know 
that Treasure in Catclaw Canyon (Sassafras House #2) is now available.

The paperback is available at Amazon,
and the ebook is available at these locations.

A teacher guide is also available 
and will make planning easier for teachers in grades three through six.

The teacher guide is available at these locations.


Treasure in Catclaw Canyon Cover Reveal

Today is cover reveal day for Treasure in Catclaw Canyon!

For all the middle grade kids who enjoyed The Legend of Sassafras House, 
book 2 in the series will be released soon.

Kale Flores doesn’t understand why his dad left or where he went. Most days Kale loves his dad, but other days he hates him for leaving. It’s been six years without a word. The one thing Kale wants most is for his dad to come home. An unexpected knock on the door raises Kale’s hopes that his dad will come back. Both Kale’s mom and his best friend, Jasmine, are skeptical. Kale wants to prove to them that his dad is not the deadbeat they think he is. It takes a treasure map of Catclaw Canyon to reveal the truth to everyone.



My Wise Visitor

Last weekend a great horned owl dropped in to visit at my house. These birds hunt at night, so a daytime sighting is rare. Strong winds circulated on the day of his appearance, so it's possible that this young owl was blown out of one of the tall trees nearby. He huddled on my back yard patio part of the day, but by evening he had moved to the front yard and was caught peeking in through a glass door. Just look at those eyes.

I don't know why he came. He didn't appear to be injured, but I was concerned for his well-being. After checking with a wildlife expert, I was advised to let him be. I was told it would be best to wait and see if his mother would come for him during the night. She must have done just that, because the next morning he was gone.

Perhaps he only stopped in to say hello. Maybe he wants to be a character in my next book. Whatever his reasons, I do hope he left behind some wisdom for me.



Counting Down the Days

At this time of year students tend to get restless and tired of the routine of school. The kids aren't the only ones to get weary. If you're a teacher, you may be counting down the days until summer break. It may seem that you must work extra hard to keep the students' attention. When each day seems longer than the last, those final weeks of school can be hard.

Maybe I can help. Since The Legend of Sassafras House was released last August, I've done presentations in a number of elementary and middle schools, and I'll be happy to visit your school. I'll promote literacy and give your students some pointers on the basics of writing fiction. This material is best suited for students in grades three through six. I'll speak to individual classrooms, grade levels, or large groups.

There aren't many weeks left in this school year, so let me know ASAP if you'd like your school added to my schedule.



Oklahoma School Visits

School visits are the best part of being a middle-grade author. I've visited a number of schools this year, and I have loved meeting new teachers, librarians, and students. This week I took The Legend of Sassafras House to Norman, Oklahoma.

One school I visited was Terra Verde Discovery School. This school is a teacher's dream. I saw a 5th grade classroom with its own loft library, accessed by a spiral staircase. There were garden plots and live animals on site. The campus has its own lake. The students themselves were the only thing more impressive than these amenities. They were attentive and respectful. Their manners were impeccable. Each and every student stood and identified himself before speaking. Wow, just wow. I didn't want to leave.

Also, I visited Washington Elementary School, a part of Norman Public Schools. This was the first school I've been to all year with a computerized check-in/check-out system for visitors. I was photographed and had to provide proof of identification. It was easy to see that the school system values the safety of their students. Washington Elementary was large and the buildings were beautiful and well-maintained. The students gave me a warm reception and displayed genuine interest in my presentation. I loved every minute of my time there.

Terra Verde Discovery School

Washington Elementary School



Focus on the Future

Fourth grade students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School have been exploring careers. Their school counselor, Mrs. Jenny Brown, has invited a number of people from the community to talk to the students about their work. She wants to encourage the students to focus on the future.

I was honored to speak to the students today about writing. I shared with them my own journey on building a writing career. I also gave them some pointers on writing fiction. It was exciting to see this young generation thinking about their futures. I hope the remarks I made today will inspire a youngster to pursue his own writing career.

One of my favorite parts of school visits is the t-shirt drawing. 



School Visits in Springdale, AR

When mapping the route from my home to the city of Springdale, AR, I was baffled when my search revealed it was an 85 hour trip. How could this be? It's only 250 miles between the two cities across the top of the state.

The explanation turned out to be user error. Somehow, I had selected walking, instead of driving, as my means of travel. My next search showed a much quicker and easier 5 hour trip.

While in Springdale, I spoke to the Wolves at Westwood Elementary, the Mallards at Monitor Elementary, and the Tigers at Tyson Elementary. Students earned The Legend of Sassafras House swag for answering questions about the importance of literacy and the elements of fiction writing.

Along with the students, I met librarians, counselors, teachers, principals, secretaries, and security officers. The common thread woven throughout my visits was dedication and enthusiasm. Nary a discouraging word was heard anywhere.

If I get a chance to return to Springdale Public Schools, I won't let a mere 85 hour walk stop me.



Winter Story Night

Cookies, hot chocolate, and books are the perfect combination for a cold winter night. Paragould Primary School planned an event for children featuring those three elements. The skies opened up with a drenching rain, making the night freezing and wet, but even that didn't curb the kids' enthusiasm for story time.

The guest readers included representatives from the Paragould Rotary Club, Paragould police and fire departments, and school officials. Other readers were from KAIT Meteorology, Junior Auxiliary, AMMC, and PHS band, theater, and football students. Clifford posed for photos, and there was even a rumor that Elvis was in the building.

With such a line-up, I felt honored to be a guest reader, as well. I shared an excerpt from The Legend of Sassafras House. Thanks to the parents and grandparents who braved the adverse weather to allow the children to attend this heart-warming event.



Upcoming Events

Here's a few of the much-anticipated events on my calendar in the coming weeks:

February 19 -  Paragould Primary School
                        Guest reader at
                       Winter Reading Night 6:00 p.m.

March 2 -        Poplar Bluff, MO Municipal Library
                       Author fair 10:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

March 7 -       Westwood Elementary School
                       Springdale, AR
                       Author visit and presentation 8:30 a.m.

March 7 -       Monitor Elementary School
                       Springdale, AR
                       Author visit and presentation 11:30 a.m.

March 8 -       John Tyson Elementary School
                       Springdale, AR
                       Author visit and presentation 8:30 a.m.



Harrisburg Elementary School Visit

School librarians are the best! They are planners, coordinators, requisitionists, organizers, PR experts, educators, and literacy promoters, just to name a few of their duties. I've been honored that so many school librarians have invited me to their schools to speak to the students.

Yesterday, I visited a school new to me. It was my first visit to Harrisburg Elementary, and the first time I'd met school librarian Belinda Self. Because of her gracious invitation, I had a chance to talk to all third and fourth grade students about the importance of literacy, and, of course, about The Legend of Sassafras House.

Some individual students and groups posed for photos, and there was a lucky t-shirt winner. 

The students at Harrisburg Elementary are enthusiastic about reading. They were attentive and had interesting questions for me, even one about my age that I tried to artfully dodge. Thanks so much to Belinda Self for making my visit a success!



5 Reasons Your Child Needs to Read The Legend of Sassafras House

With the millions of juvenile books available, how does a parent decide which ones to buy? There are so many choices. After doling out the money for a book, sometimes it's disappointing to both parent and child when the book has nothing of merit between the front and back covers.

The Legend of Sassafras House is a middle-grade novel that won't disappoint. This is a contemporary realistic fiction story that kids in the age group of 8- to 12-years old will enjoy reading. Five things your child will gain from this book:

1. Entertainment - The Legend of Sassafras house is an adventure story. There's a lot of high-interest action. It's a page turner that will keep your child engaged.

2. Bullies - No school or child is exempt from them. Kale Flores has to deal with them. Your child will identify with his struggle.

3. Friendship - Every child wants a friend. Just one good friend can make all the difference. Kale and Jasmine are proof that a boy and a girl can become best friends.

4. Single parent home - Not all homes include a mom and a dad. Kale lives with his mom only. He hasn't seen his dad for six years. If your child is in this situation it could help to read about someone else with the same issue. Even if your child never has to face this, some of his friends will. Empathy is a good thing.

5. Values - Kale has a chip on his shoulder because he has no money. His quest to become rich has a surprising ending. He discovers what is most important, and it's not money.



Readers' Favorite Review

A writer never knows how individuals will react to her book. My hope is that every reader will enjoy The Legend of Sassafras House, but tastes differ. Each reviewer is entitled to his opinion, and I appreciate feedback of all kinds. Constructive criticism is, well, constructive. A stellar review is a pat on the back. A review like this one is equivalent to winning the lottery. Thank you, Readers' Favorite for your encouragement.

Author's new book receives a warm literary welcome.
Readers' Favorite announces the review of the Children - Grade 4th-6th book "The Legend of Sassafras House" by Anita Stafford, currently available at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1947381083.
Readers' Favorite is one of the largest book review and award contest sites on the Internet. They have earned the respect of renowned publishers like Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the "Best Websites for Authors" and "Honoring Excellence" awards from the Association of Independent Authors. They are also fully accredited by the BBB (A+ rating), which is a rarity among Book Review and Book Award Contest companies.
"Reviewed By Lisa McCombs for Readers' Favorite
Morning Glory, Texas is a far cry from the city life to which Kale Flores and his mother were accustomed. A newcomer to the community himself, Kale’s biggest excitement happened the day a klutz moved in across the street. Maybe this would be an opportunity to meet a friend, a big contrast to his awful classmate Briar Fields. When Kale discovers that the klutz next door is actually a girl, Kale’s hopes are momentarily dashed until Jasmine Palmer agrees to embark on a dangerous treasure hunt in the haunted house up the street. Legend has it that years ago Granny Sassafras rented rooms to a couple of bank robbers who supposedly left treasure on the premises with the intention of returning for their loot. The legend was the answer to all of Kale’s worries. If he could find the money, he and his mother could return to their city life and not be bothered by the likes of Briar Fields ever again.

The Legend of Sassafras House by Anita Stafford is a fun, fast-paced tale that includes both a riveting story line and a valuable lesson that money does not solve all problems. Anita Stafford’s use of accurate dialogue and vivid imagery creates a high interest story that fits nicely in the rare arena of boy fiction. As a retired public school teacher, I am familiar with the challenges of finding appropriate reading material for young boys. The Legend of Sassafras House exceeds that challenge, being a great story of mystery, suspense, and life lessons."
You can learn more about Anita Stafford and "The Legend of Sassafras House" at https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/the-legend-of-sassafras-house where you can read reviews and the author’s biography, as well as connect with the author directly or through their website and social media pages.
Readers' Favorite LLC
Media Relations
Louisville, KY 40202


Baldwin Elementary School Visit

A visit to Baldwin Elementary School is like coming home. This school is the first place I was employed as a teacher. Years have passed with changes to both myself and the school, but my love for Baldwin Elementary remains the same.

During the years of my tenure there, the school served students in grades kindergarten through fourth. The school is now a second through fourth grade school. I shared my book, The Legend of Sassafras House, with the students.

The more I visit schools, the more I miss teaching. The students were attentive and had insightful questions. Thanks to the staff and students at Baldwin Elementary School for hosting me and for the trip down memory lane.