January 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Poland: Small Business: Bookstores: Children's Books: Valley News: Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker and her husband run Solterra Books specializing in books for children under ten

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Poland: Peace Corps Poland : The Peace Corps in Poland: January 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Poland: Small Business: Bookstores: Children's Books: Valley News: Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker and her husband run Solterra Books specializing in books for children under ten

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-43-253.balt.east.verizon.net - on Saturday, January 08, 2005 - 10:03 am: Edit Post

Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker and her husband run Solterra Books specializing in books for children under ten

Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker and her husband run Solterra Books specializing in books for children under ten

Poland RPCV Rebecca Parker and her husband run Solterra Books specializing in books for children under ten

Family Business Run by the Book
By Jessica T. Lee

Valley News Staff Writer

Etna -- The four Parker girls toddle softly to their libraries, choose books, and sit down in a small "reading room" next to the kitchen. They perch on overstuffed chairs and a pillow on the floor, one reading with legs crossed, the other two listening to their older sister read aloud.

This activity, this closeness, is what drives David and Rebecca Parker's lives, from their choice of residence to the children's books they sell in the family business, Solterra Books.

"We together decided that we really wanted to build a family-focused lifestyle," David Parker said, sitting at a dining table in the Parker's Etna house last week.

Their decision to start their own children's bookstore two years ago was prompted by their own difficulty finding quality books, which were especially needed because the Parkers home-school their children.

"It took so much effort to sort through the commercial clutter," David Parker said. "We help make books accessible to busy people."

The Parkers send out book catalogs of their "Gentle and Meaningful books for children from birth to age 10," and run events with a mobile bookstore, but operate primarily through their Web site, www.solterrabooks.com. The site is fast, colorful and offers many different methods of searching for a book -- by author, subject, genre, age group or price.

One of the more recent and popular events presented by Solterra Books was a three-day book sale at the Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction that featured famed storyteller Jim Weiss. At another event with Weiss, more than 75 children traveled from as far away as Burlington and Hudson, N.H., to attend.

"It brings the stories alive for the children and the families," Rebecca Parker said.

The Parkers praised Weiss and listen to his 34 recordings in their home, and Rebecca Parker said he is "a very strong name in the home-school community."

Solterra Books also recently ran a holiday book fair at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Child Care Center, where the Parkers rolled in their "mobile bookstore" -- a U-Haul truck that carries shelves and spinner racks.

The Parkers ran into a stroke of luck this fall, when popular online book retailer Chinaberry discontinued its book fairs. Organizations around the country used the California-based Chinaberry to run fund-raisers and, with its organized Internet base and its growing number of connections in the area, Solterra Books is set up to fill the now-empty role.

The Parkers launched a national catalog fund-raiser program this October, offering both print and online catalogs to interested libraries, schools and other groups. A library in need of more children's books, for example, could decide to enlist Solterra for a catalog fund-raiser. Library donors would then choose books to donate from Solterra's offerings, the library increases its collection through donations, and Solterra gains business.

The departure of Chinaberry's book fairs is one of the many growth opportunities for Solterra Books, the Parkers said. David Parker declined to provide specific information about the company's revenue and sales because "we're still just getting started," but he did say Solterra Books is just about breaking even now.

He noted that Solterra Books is growing quickly -- sales in 2004 doubled from the previous year, and the company's offerings expanded to more than 2,200 selections in 2004, up from 750 titles in 2003. The Parkers hope to reach 5,000 titles in the next 18 to 24 months.

Solterra Books appears to have entered the market at the right time because both online sales and children's books are growing in popularity. Consumers spent more money on children's books in 2003 than in each of the previous seven years, according to Ipsos BookTrends, a Chicago-based market research group.

BookTrends also reported decreased spending overall on books in 2003, partially because of the growing online market and the popularity of used books. A recent study, A Portrait of the U.S. Used Book Market, by Susan and David Siegel, co-owners of Book Hunter Press in New York, found that 54 percent of used books were sold online in 2003, up from the 49 percent in that category in 2001.

With these trends in mind, the Parkers expect to turn a profit next year, especially after they launch a monthly flier in January. The flier will go out to the thousands of customers on the Solterra Books mailing list, and could serve as an alternative to the standard offerings from Scholastic Corp., a company that advertises itself as the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books.

When choosing their books, the Parkers say they emphasize inspirational stories and gentle values, the same standards they hold when choosing books for their daughters' collections. (Each daughter has a small personal library to which the Parkers constantly add.)

They also look for books that illustrate "authentic cultural diversity," Rebecca Parker said, such as In My Family/En Mi Familia by Chicana narrative artist Carmen Lomas Garza. They also love books by Ann Morris, who recently spent three days in the Solterra booth talking to customers and signing books at the National Early Childhood Conference in Anaheim, Calif. Morris writes books such as Bread Bread Bread that take a simple theme and then explore it through pictures and stories from around the world.

They also select books that have won honors such as the Ezra Jack Keats Book Award and the Coretta Scott King Award, and offer packages of Caldecott Medal-winners that include curriculum guides for teachers and parents.

Parker favorites include Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull, the story of Wilma Rudolph, who won three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics even though doctors told her she wouldn't walk again after bouts of polio and scarlet fever, and board books such as Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, the Baby Signs series by Linda Acredolo, and Swahili language books such as Moja Means One by Muriel Feelings.

Solterra Books has trouble keeping some of its customer favorites in stock because of its small size, both physically and financially. The Parkers often only order one or two copies of a title, and their storage space is limited to the spare space on the second floor of their home.

"A number of our selections raise awareness of how broad this world is," said Rebecca Parker, who served in the Peace Corps in Poland and West Africa and is eager to live a "more mobile" life with her family. She said she wants to live abroad for at least a year, preferably in a Spanish-speaking country where the whole family can immerse themselves in the language and culture.

(Solterra means sun and earth in Latin, a language that the Parker children will eventually learn, Rebecca Parker said.)

Rebecca Parker has taught English and public health, and has a master's degree in education. Between her education know-how and David Parker's 20 years in the software industry in Boston and California’s Silicon Valley, they have been able to navigate the complex fields of publishing and marketing.

They maintain their own Web site, and David Parker took a course in graphic design just last year when they realized they needed to create a professional catalog.

The Parkers try not to talk business at the dinner table and post a "Solterra Books" sign on the door of the office when they're working. But their business is based on their family -- the Parker daughters, Sophia, 8, Meghan, 6, and twins Phoebe and Isabella, both 4è, provide feedback on books -- and the Parkers say they have gained much as parents thanks to the lessons they have all learned from books.

They want to share some of those lessons in their monthly flier. The first, David Parker said, would be that parents should start reading to their children early.

"Reading aloud is such a good way for fathers to connect with their kids," David Parker said. "I was scared to death when I read my first book aloud. I realized … she just wants to hear my voice. She didn't care about everything else.

"Get them used to your voice. Get used to your own voice," he said.

Visit the website of Solterra Books.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Valley News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Poland; Small Business; Bookstores; Children's Books



By Rose Lord (pool-72-65-193-123.pitbpa.east.verizon.net - on Wednesday, February 13, 2008 - 4:04 pm: Edit Post

I would like to reach Rebecca Parker of Solterra Books but cannot find an e-mail address on the Solterra Books website.

Dear Rebecca,

I have recently published a book entitled "Sean the Veggie Man. "
Beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Rose, "Sean the Veggie Man" starts out with an introduction from Max the dinosaur, who’s worried about the state of things on planet Earth. Max tells us the story of his friend, Sean, who as a little boy learned about gardening from his father and grandmother. He grows up with a love for gardening and for teaching other people this joyous pastime. When, as a young man, Sean is drafted into the army of an unnamed country, he is determined that he will make gardens instead of war. The book is geared to the 6-10 year old age group. I would be very happy to send you a copy if you think you might be interested in offering it on your website. You may also preview the book by going to www.makegardensnotwar.com.

Thank you for your kind consideration.

Rose Lord

By Polly Priester ( on Monday, December 08, 2008 - 8:02 am: Edit Post

I would like this email to reach Rebecca Parker of Solterra Books specializing in books for children under ten but there is no email address on the website:
I would like to draw your attention to my children's illustrated story book "Poppy the Pony" -
For children everywhere. What makes you special?
Comments about the book:
"I read it right through as soon as I got it".
"I can hardly wait for my grandson to get older so I can read it to him".
"I love the story behind the story".
Polly Priester

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