Jackson Street, Tuesday Market team up with counting book

August 13, 2013
Daily Hampshire Gazette
Barbara Solow

As a math teacher, Mary Cowhey says she is always on the lookout for new ways to help students work with numbers.

In her classes at Jackson Street School in Northampton, she noticed that children liked counting books, though too few of them were in Spanish, a language spoken by many of her school’s families.

“The books weren’t as culturally relevant as I would have liked,” said Cowhey, who is a Title I teacher at Jackson Street. “I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to have a counting book with our kids?”

That was the genesis for “Our Kids Count,” a bilingual book produced by Cowhey and the Families with Power school/community group in cooperation with Northampton’s Tuesday Market.

A book launch party was held late last week at Hampshire Heights to celebrate the release of the first 50 copies. The easy-to-hold flip book, which is aimed at 3- to 5-year-olds, features 14 pages of colorful photos of Jackson Street students counting vegetables at the city farmer’s market with text in English and Spanish.

Ben James, co-founder of the Tuesday Market, said his organization formed ties with Families with Power three years ago when the two groups sponsored a pilot farmers market project at Hampshire Heights.

“I’m always enthusiastic about anything that involves kids in the community,” said James, who took the photos for the new counting book.

Santa Garcia, a Families with Power member who provided Spanish translations for “Our Kids Count,” said she’s always wanted to produce a book.

“I’ve been an elementary school teacher and I tell my granddaughter all the time, I want to make a book for her,” said Garcia, in an interview before Friday’s book party. “It’s going to be a surprise for her.”

Garcia’s granddaughter, Amelie Acevedo, 6 — who will be entering first grade at Jackson Street next month — appears in the counting book, along with several classmates.

Elba Heredia, another Families with Power member and co-president of Jackson Street’s PTO, wrote suggestions in the front of the book for ways parents can help their kids learn to count. “The most important things are talking with and listening to your child every day and doing some counting with your child every day,” she wrote.

The School Department’s Early Childhood Office provided funding for the first 50 copies of “Our Kids Count.” James said plans are in the works to print another edition in early September that will be sold for $10 apiece at the Tuesday Market as a fundraiser for the Food Stamps X2 program. The program doubles the amount that food stamp users can spend on fresh, locally produced food when they shop at the Tuesday Market.

For details about “Our Kids Count,” contact Cowhey at 584-8917.