Last spring I had the pleasure of meeting Joyce Maynard at a book fair and learning about her books for new and struggling readers.
The faith-based stories of Sunday Bells Publications are designed for young children who are just learning to read independently. A retired teacher, Joyce not only writes her books but illustrates and self-publishes them too!
I invited Joyce to stop by today and tell us more.
Thanks for joining us here today, Joyce! What is your background, and how did you start writing?
I was a public school teacher for thirty-three years, thirteen of which were as a reading intervention specialist. When I worked with first graders who were really struggling, there were not a lot books available that were easy enough for them to read. I would create homemade books for them, using words they knew or could easily decode. I guess that was the beginning of my writing career, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
That all seems like great preparation for your next steps. Why did you begin Sunday Bells Publications, and how did you choose the name?
When my retirement was nearing, I had a big list of all the fun things I was going to do with my newfound time. But, in the back of my mind, I really felt the Lord asking, “What are you going to do for me?” One sleepless night, the answer came. God gave me the idea of using my knowledge and experience from teaching to write Christian books for early readers.
Since my stories are distinctly Christian, I thought the word Sunday would be good to use in the business name. My home church has a children’s bell choir, and listening to them is such a blessing. Sunday Bells came forth from those two ideas.
That does seem appropriate! Who are your books for, and what needs do they meet?
The Sunday Bells books are good for beginning readers and for those who are having difficulty with learning to read. They could be used anywhere from preschool through first grade or beyond, depending on the progress of the reader. They are suitable for instruction, and they can also provide practice as learners become more accomplished.
Most Bible storybooks are meant to be read aloud and are written on advanced reading levels. Not many are designed for early readers, and God is helping me create books to fill that gap. It is our hope that Sunday Bells books will help boys and girls enjoy favorite stories of Old and New Testament heroes as they read independently.
Helping children gain reading confidence is so important! You’ve illustrated the books yourself. Why was that important to you?
First of all, I am not a naturally talented artist. When I began the books, I had no idea I would do the artwork.But I approached many potential illustrators, and the doors kept closing. Eventually, I felt that God was sending me the message to try my own drawings. It has been a journey–lots of tutorials, hours of practice, and continuous learning–but now I am glad that I was led in that direction.
There are advantages to being in control of the illustrations. For beginning readers, pictures are a very important source of story meaning. By doing them myself, I can draw whatever is needed to support the text, and I can place them where they are give the most beneficial help to the reader.
For example, the word angel appears on a page in Daniel Prays to God. That would normally be a difficult word for young learners, but one look at the accompanying picture helps them easily figure it out.
What would you say to encourage parents whose children are struggling with reading? What tips would you give them?
First, look for books written in simple, natural language and that carry a lot of meaning. Sometimes that involves a lot of searching, but good materials are out there.
Also, it is very important that your child is not frustrated with texts that are too hard. The best reading practice comes when a book has only one or two new items to learn–such as an unknown letter, word, or word ending. A large percentage of the story should be what the child can read with ease.
My blog at www.SundayBells.com has several entries designed to help parents of beginning readers.
What do you enjoy when you’re not writing? Tell us a little about yourself.
I enjoy life in rural Ohio with my husband, Jim, and we recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary! We have two married daughters and three grandchildren–and two of those are babies. Family gatherings are the delight of my life.
I love serving the Lord. At my local church, my husband and I lead an adult small group Bible study. We both also work in our church’s benevolence program. Both of these ministries have brought me many blessings!
And I’m sure you are a blessing to many as well! Any closing thoughts today?
Beginning a home business and learning to self-publish has been a long process for me. Many times I have had to come back to my life verse for the Sunday Bells project, from Isaiah 42:16 (NIV): “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.”
I am so glad I began this adventure! It is my desire that the Sunday Bells books will bring blessings to young readers everywhere.
You can learn about all the Sunday Bells Publications books at www.SundayBells.com.
Connect with Joyce on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SundayBellsPublications.