One for the books: Syracuse University holds week of activities to encourage reading amongst local youth


A is for Admission, B is for the Bookstore, C is for the Carrier Dome.

This is the beginning for the new children’s book about Syracuse University, “Otto’s ABC’s,” arriving soon at the SU Bookstore. It’s just in time to help celebrate Children’s Book Week, which encourages young children to read while they’re still young.

SU celebrates Children’s Book Week this year Oct. 1-5, holding readings for local children in the Bookstore, the Golisano Children’s Hospital, the Bernice M. Wright Child Development Laboratory School and several other places. SU Literacy Corps student volunteers and even SU athletic programs also take part in guest readings.

SU has been celebrating this event for more than 10 years.

“You can’t start too early with kids to get them reading,” said Kathleen Bradley, the text and general book division manager at the SU bookstore.

“Otto’s ABC’s” is a new children’s book for this year. It follows Otto the Orange through the most memorable parts of SU, each one represented by a different letter of the alphabet. “N” is for Newhouse, “W” is for winter and “P” is a touching reminder of the Pan Am Flight 103 Wall of Remembrance.

The release date for the book isn’t certain, but will likely arrive near the end of Children’s Book Week or at the start of the following week.

Michael Borkowski, a Syracuse freelance illustrator who made the book’s pictures, said it would likely be well received by both children for its charm and alumni for its nostalgia.

“Anyone who loves the University and the area would like to have this book,” Borkowski said.

Borkowski will also be at the bookstore on Saturday to sign postcards for the book and personalize copies if they’re available for purchase.

The authors behind the book are Bradley; Leah Deyneka, the academic support coordinator of the general book department in the SU Bookstore; and Kathryn Bradford, the academic support coordinator for the textbook department in the Bookstore.

The three of them decided to author the book after the university’s last children’s book, “Hello Otto!,” produced by the publishing company Mascot Books, was taken out of print. It took months of brainstorming before finding just the right parts of SU to match each letter.

“For ‘K,’ I said ‘kissing bench,’” Bradley said with a small laugh. “Did anyone pick up on that? No.”

“Otto’s ABC’s” isn’t the only way the SU Bookstore is celebrating Children’s Book Week this year. Two children’s book characters, Olivia the Pig and Skippyjon Jones, will be making appearances at scheduled book readings. Popular characters from past year included Winnie the Pooh, the Cat in the Hat, Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

“We’d go up in the atrium with the characters,” Deyneka said. “And you’ll see people running across to come over and get their picture taken with them.”

Deyneka and Bradley said it was refreshing to see older students get as excited about Children’s Book Week as the younger ones. This is because the children often look up to SU students and see how they continued to enjoy reading once they got older.

Everyone behind “Otto’s ABC’s” also agreed it’s important for children to begin reading while they’re young and develop good reading habits for the future.

“Some of them might have a natural interest in it,” Borkowski said. “But then others may need to be helped along a little bit.”

Talia Roth, a senior graphic design and policy studies dual major, is also a program assistant for the International Young Scholars and helps international students develop important literacy skills throughout the year. She agrees that teaching kids to read when they’re young is very important, especially when becoming part of an English-speaking community.

“There’s nothing bad that reading can do,” Roth said. “It can only help you.”

Bradley and Deyneka also believe that Children’s Book Week is important for helping children learn to read in a way separate from new technology. They mentioned studies showing that children retain more information when reading from print and not from a screen, so the benefits from books are more effective.

Bradley remembered a CBS news article in late October that helped illustrate this. It depicted a young toddler reading off an iPad with little difficulty.

But when the child was given a magazine, she couldn’t turn the pages. She poked, scratched, and slapped at them, but couldn’t turn them.

Bradley feels that Children’s Book Week is important for making sure kids don’t forget one of the most basic skills about reading, so they can keep reading as they grow up.

Said Bradley: “Kids need a book to start with. You need to be able to turn the page.”


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