Sunday, July 17, 2011

Authors Marketing Literacy and Mentoring

 One Author's Solution For Greater Literacy
My kids are six and three and I wonder what their relationship to books and the published word will be. Just as any parent wants what is best for their children, I really hope that as a society, we figure out how to close the literacy gap – and fast.

The sad reality is that 68% of all U.S. eighth graders read below grade level.

Think about that.  With all of the money poured into education – longer days, longer school years, starting school at a younger age, home learning aids, tutors, and greater awareness on literacy, the best our advanced society can come up with is only 1 in 3 read at or above grade level by age 13 or 14?

Maybe our tests are screwed up.  Maybe our teachers are working with a poor curriculum.  Perhaps issues of economics, immigration, overcrowding, poor teacher training or any of a dozen things are to blame.  The experts will continue to debate this.  And our nation’s children will get dumber.

One interesting solution to the literacy dilemma has been posed by my recently signed client, Denise Eide, who wrote a fabulous book, Uncovering the Logic of English.

Of course, as a client, I want to promote her work.  But more importantly, as a parent and as a citizen of our nation, I want to see the sun shine on her book.  I believe she offers a terrific approach to teaching the English language to children and adults. It seems highly effective and worth a look at.

Denise, a curriculum designer, has worked in the field of literacy instruction for 16 years.  The Minnesota mother of four knows first-hand the challenges of educating our youth.

“My goal in writing the book is to reframe the ‘reading wars’ and demonstrate to the mass public the common-sense nature of teaching how English really works, “ says Denise.  “I believe that one of the roots to the English-speaking world’s failure to teach all students to read lies in the cultural myth that English is illogical and riddled with exceptions.  This, coupled with wide-spread teaching of inconsistent phonics, and other misguided methods has led to the devastating reality that two-thirds of the nation’s youth read below grade level.”

Denise takes the approach that children need to learn, not by treating words as pictures that get memorized but by understanding phonemes, phonics, and phonograms.  Her methodology is not hard to follow and once you embrace it you start to see rules form that instantly help you spell, pronounce words, and comprehend them.  

English, with up to two million words, represents the largest vocabulary in the history of the world.  The average adult speaks between 40,000 – 60,000 words, but a well-educated adult might master up to 200,000 words. Rather than trying to memorize words, children merely need to learn some 104 rules in order to read fluently and proficiently.  She stresses the learning of how letters sound, especially in their different pairings, and to see logic and structure when posed with exceptions and variations to what they have been taught was the norm or standard.

She has a refreshing approach that I invite everyone to explore. Check out  or

Interview With Human Rights Leader, Mentor & Author John Prendergast

My firm has had the pleasure of promoting John Prendergast, on behalf of his publisher, Crown, to promote an amazing book that chronicles his 25-year mentoring relationship with a one-time drug-dealing inner-city youth. Unlikely Brothers is a rare book, much like The Other Wes Moore, that reveals the colliding of multiple worlds and leaves us with an inspiring message. 

John Prendergast met Michael when the young boy was just seven and living in a homeless shelter. John, white, and Michael, black, would forge an unlikely relationship – like brothers – that continues to this day. Michael credits John with saving his life and now works two jobs while raising his family of five. John says he learned from Michael as well. They collaborated, over a two-year process, to write their book that has received major attention from the news media.

John has been a tireless leader in fighting human rights violations, especially genocide in Darfur. He has worked with celebrities such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney to raise awareness to the plight of the world’s most unfortunate situations. Unlikely Brothers draws a parallel to the global fight against the war zone and another type of human war zone that exists in the ghettos of our cities here in America. It is a fascinating read. 

Below is a brief interview John did online with Book Marketing Buzz Blog. If you want to become a mentor or help fight genocide, go to John’s web site:

John, as a human rights activist, what inspired you to write a book about (Unlikely Brothers) mentoring? It wasn't my idea!  Michael, my "little brother," wanted to tell our story.  After initially resisting the idea, I caved.  And I'm glad I did.  It was the most cathartic thing I've ever done!
What did you find to be most challenging about writing such a personal book with a co-author? I thought it was easier, rather than more difficult, doing this book with a co-author.  We helped each other remember all kinds of crazy things that I had long ago forgot.  The most destabilizing thing was to learn things about Michael that I didn't know back when I should have, like how deeply he was involved in violent drug trafficking.
What advice do you have for authors seeking to get published? Never give up.  We got turned down by at least a half dozen publishers before we signed a deal.  If you believe in what you are doing, carry it forward zealously to anyone who might listen.
You are off to the Sudan with George Clooney.  How amazing is it that they are a free and independent state? Two and a half million people died so that freedom would come to South Sudan.  That is a humbling thought.  It was incredible to be with folks who had fought for so long and lost so much to achieve their independence.
You’ve traveled the world to stop the abuses in Darfur. But here in the US there is a different battle that we lose our youth to. How can we each help by becoming mentors? All the longitudinal studies show that mentoring, tutoring and Big Brother/Big Sister programs help build young people's self-esteem, which in turn improves school performance, reduces involvement in the criminal justice system, and has a number of other positive effects.  And it costs almost nothing.  In this era of huge budget cuts, that is about the best investment someone can make in the future of this country, not to mention the future of one life.
What do you believe has been the key to your success when it comes to getting publicity for your book? Again, never giving up.  I knock and knock until I hear someone shuffling around inside, then I pick the lock and show up!  Some outlets finally just give up and interview me.
You’re doing the Colbert Report this Monday . You can tell us – is he as funny as Jon Stewart? Those are the two funniest social commentators in America.  It's a toss-up!  Stewart already roasted me good on his show.  I'm waiting for my beating from Colbert next.  :-)

Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer at Planned Television Arts ( and blogs daily at You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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