2014-02-21 / Neighbors

Teacher ready for release of first book

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


Sashi Kaufman, a teacher at Scarborough Middle School, is launching her first young adult book next week and will be a featured speaker at the school’s annual Read-a-Thon. She is hoping her love of literature will rub off on others, including her 3-year-old daughter, Eliana Gray. (Michael Kelley photo) Sashi Kaufman, a teacher at Scarborough Middle School, is launching her first young adult book next week and will be a featured speaker at the school’s annual Read-a-Thon. She is hoping her love of literature will rub off on others, including her 3-year-old daughter, Eliana Gray. (Michael Kelley photo) Sashi Kaufman, a science and English teacher at Scarborough Middle School, learned to love reading at a young age. Kaufman, who is releasing “The Other Way Around,” her first young adult novel next week, will share this love of literature Friday, Feb. 28 at the middle school’s annual Read-a-thon.

During the Read-a-thon, now in its 10th year, teachers and students at the middle school spend the day reading books that they are interested in. The goal is to collectively read 100,000 pages. Two years ago, close to 120,000 pages were read.

The event is a local version of Read Across America Day, an annual reading celebration that takes place March 2, the birthday of Theodor Geisel, the iconic American author who penned dozens of children’s books under the name Dr. Seuss.

“They can read anything they want. They can read graphic novels, things they bring from home, or it can be their independent reading book for school,” Kaufman said.

The students, Kaufman said, have been collecting pledges, either in the form of flat rate donation or money for every page they read during the Read-a-thon.

“We do it as a way to encourage literacy and getting kids excited about reading and to celebrate reading,” said Kaufman, who teaches eighth-grade English and seventh-grade science. “We also do it as a fundraiser for team funds, which support field trips and other team events.”

For the last several years, the middle school has invited Maine authors to speak to students during the Read-a-Thon.

Last year featured Richard Blanco, a Bethel-based poet who gained national acclaim last January when he read a poem he wrote at President Obama’s second inauguration. Maurissa Guibord and Sarah Thomson have also presented to students.

Kaufman will be one of the featured presenters during this year’s Read-a- thon. Joining Kaufman is Megan Frazer Blakemore, a young adult novelist from Maine.

Reading, Kaufman said, “is huge in terms of creating kids who are life-long readers. At this age, in middle school, there are so many other ways kids can spend time. We want to keep reading authentic, relevant and exciting for them.”

Kaufman’s foray into writing was born out of her love of reading.

“I’ve always been a voracious reader. I love the power of storytelling to transport you and totally engulf you. It was a natural progression for someone who likes to read to want to try and create that myself,” said Kaufman, who has been teaching at Scarborough Middle School for 10 years.

Carolrhoda Lab, a small publishing company in Minneapolis, Minn. published “The Other Way Around.” Kaufman said Carolrhoda is known for “edgy young adult fiction.”

The novel, which Kaufman wrote in 2010, tells the story of Andrew West, a smart 16-year-old boy who doesn’t apply himself to his academics. One day, Andrew decided to run away from home with the Freegans, a group of street performers and dumpster divers. As Andrew travels the country with the Freegans, he begins to leave behind expectation and grow up.

Kaufman said former students she had who were intelligent, but unmotivated, inspired the idea for the book.

“You don’t have to grow up and be an adult a certain way. There are a lot of ways to grow up,” Kaufman said. “That’s tough to communicate as a 30-somethingyear old teacher to a 13-year-old student. It is much easier to do through literature.”

Kaufman is working on several more novels, including one that her agent, Lauren MacLeod, of The Strothman Agency in Boston, is pitching to publishing companies. That novel tells the story of a girl, whose parents are doomsday preparers and what happens to her when she is asked to lead her school after it is taken over by armed gunmen. Another novel still in the works is about two best friends who are struggling with if they are worthy of each other’s friendship.

A book launch for “The Other Way Around” will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 6 at Longfellow Books in Portland. Kaufman is also planning an author’s event at Scarborough Public Library.

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