Niwot's bookstores hold readings that support kids' emotional wellness
September 15, 2021
A pair of bookstore readings this past weekend supported the mental health of some of Niwot's youngest residents. Both readings were less of a traditional presentation and more hands on, which worked out well for attendees.
On Saturday Sept. 11, the Wandering Jellyfish on Second Avenue hosted a reading by Jessica Speer, author of the book "BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends): A Girl's Guide to Happy Friendships" which is available for purchase at the store. The reading started with Speer helping everyone to get comfortable and take time to really consider how they develop friendships in their lives. More than a dozen girls who were there with trusted adults sat on the store's benches and even on the floor to take a friendship-focused quiz.
Speer passed out some tween-favored gel pens and encouraged her audience to write honestly, reassuring them that their privacy was of utmost importance. She knew that talking about sensitive topics isn't always easy but laying a supportive environment can help.
As a result, the girls were engaged with the reading, not just taking part as passive listeners. As part of the quiz, girls were asked to rank aspects of their current friendships according to whether behaviors took place almost always, sometimes, or never. Speer asked the group to consider things like how well they were able to offer and receive support, how they were able to be respected when sharing thoughts or feelings, and how they feel after interacting with a friend.
Speer is a Steamboat Springs resident with family living in Longmont. She was pleased with the event. "The girls were engaged and asked great questions about the tricky friendship situations they have experienced," she said. "The preteen years can be a bumpy ride when it comes to friendships. When my own daughters entered their tween years, friendship struggles started to emerge."
Speer said that seeing her daughters work through their own friendship issues sparked her curiosity about solutions. It inspired her to research the subject. She developed a friendship program for girls that eventually led to her book.
Both of The Wandering Jellyfish's owners were present for the event, smiling and nodding as the reading took place. Co-owner Jerilyn Patterson said, "I'm so happy with the event. She's doing such a great job and the attendees seem really engaged. I think there are some really helpful pointers she's offering. I wish I'd had something like this when I was their age."
Patterson also reiterated that, though they had a number of authors reaching out for readings, she thought this reading was on their shortlist. "We thought it would be a really valuable opportunity for young people to learn about healthy relationships at this age. They're still trying to figure it out, to navigate this world of friendships they're just not used to."
The next day, Inkberry Books in Cottonwood Square, hosted a family-focused event, yoga session, and book signing in honor of Grandparents Day. Author Dee Marie led a group that included a mixed audience of kids, parents, and grandparents through an outdoor yoga session.
The group, even with participants as young as six and seven, was peaceful and centered. The class began with a light foot-stomping and chant in the area just outside of Inkberry, followed by some forward and backward slow-walking yoga. Participants were tuned in with Marie as she worked and were comfortable with what was being taught.
Marie comes to the class with a substantial background in connecting people of all ages with yoga. In 2004 she founded a nonprofit, Calming Kids, where she works closely with families and with teachers and students in both Boulder Valley and Saint Vrain Valley School District.
She said she has seen the benefits of yoga for bringing emotional control and focus to even her youngest students. "It helps to increase their behavioral regulation and to support their success in life. We did four years of research and proved that we could calm kids' behavior, get behavior chances that increase self-relation, and even increase test scores."
Marie used the knowledge derived from her nonprofit and experience in schools to write her book, "Finding a Calm Moment." It is written in a smaller format as a series of meditations and easily expressed actions that can support yoga practice for someone of any age.
"It's an easy access book. You can just open them up and do one meditation," she said. "You can also link them together. Like a vinyasa of movement where you string physical yoga movements together to create a choreography, you can also create a choreography of meditations."
The book is available online and also at Inkberry Books. Part of the purchase of each book sold is donated to support the Calming Kids organization.
Inkberry co-owner Gene Hayworth said he was glad to have the class as a service to the community. "Lots of people ask if they can use this space, but in this case, it's a fundraiser to support the kids. It also sounded like it would be a lot of fun for the community."
In the end, both Marie and her class were glad to be there, as were the participants in the previous day's reading. All participants are likely to have left with knowledge and experience to benefit them in the moment and for the rest of their lives.
That's just another reason to set aside time for a visit to the local bookstore.