Staffers Emma Nathan and Maddy Blaney pose with Clifford.
Courtesy Margot Sage-El.

Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip RV

Tuesday, July 11, 4-6 p.m.

Watchung Booksellers,
54 Fairfield St.,
The Green at Watchung Plaza

featuring Clifford the Big Red Dog, Geronimo Stilton, and five childrens’ book authors:
Max Bralllier (aka Jack Chabert), Kristy Caldwell, Jay Cooper,
Pepper Springfield (Judy Newman) and Joyce Wan

Reading tables, giveaway tables, and a prize wheel. Free.
Information: summerroadtrip.scholastic.com/

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Kids treat children’s book author Max Brallier, also known as Jack Chabert, as if he’s LeBron James.

MAX BRALLIER

That was something Brallier didn’t expect when he began writing books.

The New York-based author of more than 30 books, including “Can YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?,” “The Last Kids on Earth,” and the “Lego Nexo Knights: Knights Academy” series, has also been surprised by emails from parents with reluctant-reader children, who tell him the first book their child picked up on their own was one of his.

Brallier and four other authors will be at The Green in Watchung Plaza on Tuesday, July 11, as part of the Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip RV.

Montclair author Judy Newman, whose pen name as the author of “Bobs and Tweets” is Pepper Springfield, doesn’t know exactly what to expect from a book signing: her appearance at the Scholastic RV will be her first.

Newman, who works at Scholastic, said she was “thrilled to be one of the authors” in Watchung’s event. Growing up in Newton, Mass., “I was always part of a summer reading program at the library,” she said. “I would go to the library, riding

JUDY NEWMAN

my bike. I had to read the most books of any kid in the city. This is bringing back a huge wave of nostalgia.”

Her books, which rhyme, are set in a place that’s a bit like Montclair, she said. Appearing at Watchung Booksellers, a store she has loved for years, is particularly thrilling. “Montclair is a great town. I love the message of the local community coming together to support summer reading. If we can model it in Montclair, it will be great for reading.”

The “summer slide,” a term for the loss of reading skills that children go through when they’re out of school for the summer, is something Scholastic investigates. They issue he Scholastic Kids  Family Reading Report, that surveys children ages 6 to 17, and parents of even smaller children titled t biannually. Data is available at scholastic.com/readingreport.

The Scholastic Road Trip RV is just one of several events designed to keep kids reading: Montclair Public Library has a books challenge for children and adults, and the United Way of Northern New Jersey held a literacy event for children on the United Way Day of Action on June 21 in Montclair.

The Reading RV rolls into town. Courtesy Scholastic

Like the United Way event, the Scholastic Road Trip RV is designed to encourage kids to keep reading during the summer months, said Julie Amitie, executive director of marketing at Scholastic. The company, known for its school book fairs, launched the program last year.

“Research shows kids do like reading over the summer, but if they are able to choose their own books, they are more likely to continue reading,” Amitie said.

The Scholastic RV, which brings local reading communities together with family-centric events, she explained, “lets them know books and reading are important and also fun.”

One RV is on the West Coast and one on the East Coast, Amitie said, and no, the authors aren’t living in the vans and going from place to place.

Instead, Scholastic invites local authors and illustrators to participate.

And each event has one costumed Clifford the Big Red Dog and Geronimo Stilton. “I love the look on the kids’ faces when they see costumed characters for the first time,” she said. Clifford the Big Red Dog has been around since 1963, but older kids still love him: “There’s an emotional engagement to characters that stays with kids.”

Kids do reading-related activities during the RV’s visit last year. Courtesy Margot Sage-El.

Carolyn Anbar, the children’s room manager and buyer at Watchung Booksellers, agreed with Amitie that “kids love the characters. They are excited to see a huge Clifford.”

Watchung Booksellers hosted the Scholastic RV last year, and attracted about 100 people, Anbar said. “There were kids sitting under the tree, on benches, reading.

“It’s all about reading. We were told it was one of the most successful ones they’ve had. You can’t say kids are not reading. They are reading.”

In addition to having the books by the participating authors on hand, Watchung Booksellers has also ordered other Scholastic books to sell. One of the big favorites is the graphic novel “Dog Man,” by Dave Pilkey, the creator of “Captain Underpants,” Anbar said.

And despite the fact that “nothing plugs in, there are no video games,” the kids are excited, she added.

Brallier, who participated in the debut of the Scholastic RV last year, said that the kids “are off their cell phones for a couple of hours.

“From what I can see, it’s sort of a miracle.”

For Newman, the internet and everything you can do on your phone “ups the game for books. Books are competing to be as entertaining and motivating as anything they can do digitally.

“We’re trying to turn the summer slide into a summer stretch.”