Niwot’s bookstores hold readings that support kids’ emotional wellness

Two bookstore readings last weekend helped the mental health of some of Niwot’s youngest residents. Both readings were less of a traditional presentation than more practical, which worked well for the participants.

On Saturday, September 11th, Wandering Jellyfish on Second Avenue hosted a reading by Jessica Speer, author of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends): A Girl’s Guide to Happy Friendships, available in-store. Reading began with Speer helping everyone feel comfortable and taking the time to really think about how they develop friendships in their lives. More than a dozen girls, who were there with familiar adults, sat on the benches of the shop and even on the floor to take part in a friendly quiz.

Handing out some of Tween’s favorite gel pens, Speer encouraged her audience to write honestly and assured them that their privacy was of the utmost importance. She knew it wasn’t always easy to talk about sensitive topics, but creating a supportive environment can help.

This kept the girls busy with the reading and not only participated as passive listeners. As part of the quiz, girls were asked to rank aspects of their current friendships according to whether behaviors almost always, sometimes or never occurred. Speer asked the group to consider how well they could offer and receive support, how they could be respected when they shared thoughts or feelings, and how they felt after interacting with a friend.

Speer is a Steamboat Springs resident with a family who live in Longmont. She was satisfied with the event. “The girls were engaged and asked great questions about the tricky friendship situations they went through,” she said. “The teenage years can be a bumpy ride when it comes to friendships. When my own daughters got into their twenties, friendship battles began.”

Speer said she piqued her curiosity for solutions to see her daughters solve their own friendship problems. It inspired her to look into the subject. She developed a friendship program for girls that eventually led to her book.

Both owners of The Wandering Jellyfish attended the event and smiled and nodded as the reading took place. Co-owner Jerilyn Patterson said, “I am so happy with the event. She does such a great job and the participants seem really dedicated. I think there are some really helpful pointers she offers. I wish I had something like this when I was her age. “

Patterson also reiterated that although a number of authors searched for readings, she thought that reading was on their shortlist. “We thought it would be a really valuable opportunity for young people to learn healthy relationships at this age. They are still trying to figure it out, find their way in this world of friendships that they are just not used to.”

The next day, Inkberry Books hosted a family-oriented event, yoga session, and book signing in Cottonwood Square in honor of Grandparents Day. Author Dee Marie led a group with a mixed audience of children, parents, and grandparents through an outdoor yoga session.

The group, even with participants aged six and seven, was peaceful and centered. The class started with some light stomping and singing in the area outside Inkberry, followed by some forward and backward slow-running yoga. The participants were attuned to Marie during the work and felt comfortable with what was being taught.

Marie comes to the course with a solid 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 the Boulder Valley and Saint Vrain Valley School Districts.

She said she saw the benefits of yoga in adding emotional control and focus to even her youngest students. “It helps improve their behavioral regulation and support their success in life. We spent four years researching and proving that we can calm children’s behavior, gain behavioral opportunities that increase self-relationship, and even improve test scores.”

Marie used the knowledge from her non-profit organization and her experiences in schools to write her book “Finding a Calm Moment”. It is written in a smaller format as a series of meditations and easy-to-express acts that can aid the practice of yoga for people of all ages.

“It’s an easily accessible book. You can just open it and do a meditation,” she said. “You can also connect them together. Like a vinyasa of movement, where you string together physical yoga movements to create a choreography, you can also create a choreography of meditations.”

Deborah Cameron

Jessica Speer reads from her book BFF or NRF: A Girl’s Guide to Happy Friendships

The book is available online and also from Inkberry Books. A portion of the purchase of every book sold is donated to support the Calming Kids organization.

Inkberry co-owner Gene Hayworth said he was glad to have the course as a community service. “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 the community had a lot of fun.”

In the end, both Marie and her class were happy to be there, as were the participants in the reading the day before. All participants have likely left with knowledge and experience that they can benefit from for the moment and for the rest of their lives.

This is just another reason to take the time to visit the local bookstore.

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