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Boosting literacy through book sales

Behind the unassuming storefront on Abbott Road in South Buffalo, Dog Ears Bookstore & Café is more than just a place to buy books. It is also a warm and friendly respite and home to the Enlightenment Literary Arts Center, which offers reading and writing programs for children and adults.

“Our mission statement is simple,” said owner Tom McDonnell. “It’s not just about selling a book, it’s about being able to read the book, to read properly, to read in-depth and to get more out of it.”

The many programs and events at Dog Ears each month are designed to develop reading and writing skills and cultivate a love of literature.

Funded by proceeds from the non-profit bookstore and café, plus grants, private donations, sponsorships and fundraisers, current programs include children’s reading series, after school programming, summer camps, book discussion groups, family literacy night, writers’ workshops, poetry gatherings and more.

“There’s something here for everyone,” said McDonnell.

The Puppy Tales Story Time program teaches the fundamentals of reading, starting with children as young as age two. “We build pre-reading skills, get the children accustomed to handling books, and introduce letter and number identification so that they can start to build on words,” said McDonnell.

Dog Ears’ summer camps are a unique way for kids ages 7-13 to explore their love of literature. “Our reading and writing camp is two weeks long,” explained McDonnell. “Every day the kids will come in and take part in an activity in the morning, and then write about it in the afternoon.”

Past activities have included a concert by a local musician followed by a song writing session, and a visit from Chet Fery of Bread Time Stories and More, who, after baking bread with the kids in the café, helped them write a how-to piece on baking.

After-school programs are offered to school-aged children to help with standardized testing and homework, and middle and high school students can take part in an evening summer program designed to help with their required reading.

For adults, book discussion groups and writers’ workshops are opportunities to stretch their literary muscles. “It’s a great environment for sharing knowledge, sharing ideas and sharing the love of a great book,” said McDonnell.

The bookstore itself hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year. “We celebrate authors’ birthdays, host book signings and releases, field trips for schools,” said McDonnell. “We love to get creative and are always open to new ideas for events and programs.”

Reinforcing its mission of literacy, Dog Ears also accepts donations of gently used books and cycles them back into the community. Adult titles are passed out bi-weekly to over 100 Meals on Wheels clients, and children’s books are donated to kids in need. For more information or to learn about program schedules, visit Dogearsbookstore.org.

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