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June 26, 2013 / maxpproductions

Janice Erickson- Special Education Teacher

ImageJanice Erickson

There are some people who are simply meant to be teachers. They have a kindness and warmth about them that makes students and fellow teachers alike gravitate towards them.

Janice Erickson is one of those people. I first met Janice several years ago when I became a teacher assistant at a school specializing in educating students with Autism and emotional disabilities. On my first day I was wrecked with nerves. I had never worked with students with disabilities and I was terrified that the students wouldn’t like me or that I would do a poor job. Janice, with her bright smile and kind voice, instantly took those nerves away. She was, quite simply, the kindest person I had ever met. It is that kindness that she bestows upon her students that makes her one of the most amazing teachers I’ve come to work with.

In addition to the warmth she shares with others, Janice is such a brilliant educator because of her love for reading and learning. When one walks into her classroom, there are shelves of books. And similar to the goals of Max P. Productions, Janice chooses literature and lesson plans based on helping students understand their worth and value. We were so excited to interview Janice because she shares many of the same goals we do: to help young people understand that with appreciation and the right attitude, absolutely anything is possible.

Tell us about when you first knew you wanted to be a teacher, and, in particular when you wanted to work in special education as opposed to regular education.

Teaching was always something I thought about doing, but never thought about doing seriously. After high school, I went to the local community college in pursuit of a Liberal Arts Degree to buy myself some time while figuring out what to do with my life. Throughout my years there I took a lot of classes in early childhood. Turned out, I loved them! I left college with an Associates Degree and during the next couple of years I earned my bachelors degree in Elementary Education and Special Education, and eventually earned a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I did three semesters of student teaching while earning my degrees. The first semester I student taught in a general education third grade classroom. It was then that I knew general ed was not for me. I gravitated towards the students who needed extra help, and found that I was bored most of the other times. I craved the constant action and interaction that I was used to when working with students in special ed.  My next two student teaching placements were both in the school I was working in, where I slowly began to climbed the ladder and got closer to my new goal of becoming a special education teacher.  In time, I reached my goal. I am now teaching special education and couldn’t imagine my career being anything other then what it is now!

How do you incorporate literature into your classroom? What literature do you find has the most impact on your students?

Literature is a huge part of both my personal and professional life. I am constantly looking for the next best thing to read, so naturally, my classroom has a small library set up with books and bean bag chair.  Students have access to books on various reading levels and topics. Many times I will begin a lesson, or introduce a new theme with a book.  I try to find a book that will engage all of the students and their various levels of learning and interests. I use the computer to make pictures that correlate with the book and have the students match the pictures to the book. I usually read the book aloud and when I am finished I leave it out for them to look at during their free time.  I find that simple and concrete literature has the biggest impact on my students. Things they can relate to, and with pictures that aren’t too abstract.

One of the events the school you work in likes to hold is a day where companion dogs are brought in and the students have a chance to pet and spend time with those dogs. How do you feel the students respond to those companion dogs? Can you give a few specific examples of students interacting with those dogs?

Overall, the students really look forward to visiting with the companion dogs. My class specifically would eagerly wait their turn, and then run into the library (where the dog interactions take place) to get the closest spot possible to the dog. I have noticed that students who are typically full of energy, seem to relax a bit when playing with the dog. They hug her, kiss her, play with her paws and even lay down on the floor next to her!  Students who don’t socialize very easily are calm and focused on the dog, and will say hello and pet her. A specific example of a student interacting with the dog often comes to mind. The young man is about 12 years old, and not a fan of animals. He frequently tells us that his brother is afraid of dogs, but I have a feeling the fear is mutual! The first time he met the companion dog, he sat across the room, and wouldn’t look at her. He got upset with us for suggesting that he say hello. The next time he met the dog, he still refused to say hello to, or touch the dog, but he moved his chair closer. We met the dog three times this past year, on the third visit this young man waited for all of the other students to leave the room and then moved his chair close enough for me to take a picture of him and the dog! What a great accomplishment!

One of our top priorities at Max P. Productions is educating children on the importance of self-empowerment. What do you do as an educator to help your students feel empowered?

This is such an important thing to teach students. It is also such a difficult thing to teach students. In the school where I work, the students display severe delays in cognitive abilities as well as behavioral problems. I believe it is important for them to be heard, even if just in their own every day lives. I want all of the students in my class to know that when they speak, people are listening. On a very basic level, I teach them that if they don’t want to do something they need to tell me. If they don’t want to work they need to say “No work” or “I need a break.”  One student with limited speech has pictures symbols on her desk. One says “yes” and the other says “no”. When it is clear by her behaviors that she doesn’t want to be doing what I ask of her, I prompt her to hand me the “no” symbol. As soon as she does I remove all work from her desk, and place no demands on her for a few minutes. Eventually she has to go back and complete the task she was working on, but the hope is that she is learning to be self-empowered, that she has some control.  I have another student in my class who often walks with his head down. I am constantly reminding him to keep his head up, and walk with pride. I tell him to be proud of himself, and by walking with his head up, others will know it too!

What are some of your goals as you continue your career in education?

My goals as I continue my career in education are pretty simple. I never want to stop learning and gathering new information. I want to continue to learn from my co-workers, from my students, from classes and trainings, books and websites and from all of the education magazines that are out there. In addition to learning new things, I want to know that I am making a difference in a child’s life. My goal is to reach out to as many students as possible. Most importantly, I want to remain happy in my career. I love my job, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I often say, the day I start to dread going to work, is the day I need to find a new job!

A huge thank you to the lovely Janice for this interview! Max P. Productions is so inspired and hopeful for the future of children because of educators like you!

Max P. Productions is a children’s book publisher focused on empowering children through story. The information in this interview is copyright 2013 Max P. Productions. Use of this interview in part or in whole must be granted by Max P. Productions. Please contact us at cs at maxpproductions dot com if you wish to use the content in this interview. Thank you.

June 21, 2013 / maxpproductions

5 Fun Things to do to Raise Money for Your Local Animal Shelter

5 Fun Things to do to Raise Money for Your Local Animal Shelter

5 Fun Things to do to Raise Money for Your Local Animal Shelter

We all know how important it is for animals to have a loving and safe home! In the meantime, we want to make sure they are as comfortable as possible in their animal shelter.  Here are five things you can do to raise money to help your local animal shelter be a great temporary home for so many animals:

  1. Organize a run and ask your friends, family, and neighbors to sponsor you, and those participating, for the amount of miles you complete.
  2. Have any junk in your attic or basement that you’ve been meaning to throw out? Have a garage sale and donate all of the money you make to your local animal shelter.
  3. Have a mini talent contest! Invite budding musicians, singers, actors etc. to perform. Charge an entrance fee and donate it to the shelter.
  4. Organize a hike into your favorite forest or up your favorite hill and collect $10 from everyone who participates and donate it to the animal shelter.
  5. Have a car wash! Car washes are so much fun, especially in the summertime! They give you an opportunity to have fun with your friends while raising money for a great cause!

If you know of some fun ways to raise money for sheltered animals, let us know and have fun!

The information in this article is copyright 2013 Max P. Productions. Use of this article in part or in whole must be granted by Max P. Productions. Please contact us at cs at maxpproductions dot com if you wish to use the content in this article. Thank you.

June 18, 2013 / maxpproductions

Ryan Kelly of Ryan’s Barkery and Shark Tank Success – Part 1

Ryan Kelly

Ryan Kelly

Ryan is a young entrepreneur who owns Ryan’s Barkery, a company dedicated to bringing the highest quality and tastiest all-natural treats to dogs everywhere.

It was his adopted dog, Barkley, who ultimately inspired Ryan to start his own business. After adopting him from an animal shelter, his mom and dad stopped at a pet store to buy some tasty treats to welcome Barkley into the family. But, unfortunately, the treats weren’t so welcoming, the smell sent both pet and owners scurrying towards the hills. And that is when Ryan declared he could bake a much better, tastier treat that his dog would love.

I first became aware of Ryan on his unforgettable performance on Shark Tank, the hit show on Friday nights that makes American dreams come true. Here at Max P. Productions we are dedicated to teaching children animal compassion and success and Ryan was and is the epitome of both and so I wanted to learn about how this young boy, now 11-years old, began.

Ryan, I want to start off by saying that I am very excited about you and the great things you have done and are doing. You are a great inspiration to me and thousands of others and I am honored that you have chosen to do this interview with us.

Ryan and Barbara

Ryan and Barbara

I was very impressed by your performance on Shark Tank. You were knowledgeable about your product and the finances. You were also very delightful and calm. How did you prepare for your pitch?

I know my business pretty well! Mom and I knew how much each ounce costs, each bag, each treat, the packaging, and how much we paid for other things, like the table and sign we bought. First rule of Shark Tank = KNOW THE NUMBERS!! I watched recorded Shark Tank episodes until I learned what each Shark was like, and what questions they like to ask. Kevin O’Leary always asks about royalties. Barbara wants to know how she’s going to make her money back. Robert loves, loves, loves dogs. Daymond likes to license things. Mark tells stories about when he was a kid. I was not nervous, which was good, and I just got up there and told the truth. I knew I had a business that was making money and had very little debt.

Most children and adults find numbers and math challenging.  You demonstrated a great understanding of your numbers on Shark Tank. Have you always been comfortable with numbers and what advice would you give to children who are struggling with math?

I’ve always liked math, it makes sense to me. I have had great teachers, too. It’s very important to know your numbers on Shark Tank. It lets the Sharks know you are prepared, and that you know your business well. It can also show what you are really good at and what you need help with. If you have great sales, it shows them you are a good salesperson. If your costs are high, it can tell them that you might need to do more research, plan better, or need to sell more of something to drive the cost down.

I would tell someone struggling with math that first of all, everyone struggles with something. Second, I would tell them that something that can help with math is concentration. Distractions make it harder, so turn off the TV and your iPod.

What inspired you to want to make your dog biscuits into a business venture as opposed to a hobby?

I’ve thought of things I could do since I was little. I’ve had lemonade stands, I’ve shoveled walkways, and I’ve sold my Halloween candy on the bus. The difference with a hobby is that you do it when you feel like it. A business is something that you make a promise to do every day. People start to count on it being there. People started looking for my treats at every adoption event, and I needed to make sure they could get them every time they went.

Ryan and Barkley

Ryan and Barkley

What inspired you to get up at 5am every morning before school when most kids are still asleep to focus on your business?

I always get up early. I don’t like to be rushed. I can make some dough so my mom can help bake while I’m at school.

I think it’s amazing that you’re paying your mom back the $200 she put into your venture, what made you decide to pay her back?

I have to, it’s good not to owe anyone money if you don’t have to. She said it’s a good lesson. Mark Cuban would NOT let that go…

How do you come up with your marketing ideas and do you come up with them on your own?

Selling them in the neighborhood kind of happened on its own, some people started asking where the treats came from when their dogs loved them so much. They started buying from me, then they told people at work, and I started selling more of them. Selling them at adoption events was my mom’s and my idea. We saw a sign advertising for the event by my house and thought it would be the perfect place! Dog lovers all in one place, and I already have things in common with them like adoption and wanting to give the dogs the very best treats. Once the adoption events are over, I give the treats that I don’t sell away to people with dogs with our phone number on the bag. I bring them to lacrosse practice or stick them in mailboxes of people that I know have dogs so they can try them and call me for more.

Were you nervous when you presented your first dog biscuit to your friends and what was their reaction?

I was a little nervous, but my friends are great. We all are very different, but always support each other. They are very happy for me and are part of “Team Barkery”. They spend some of their free time helping me sell on weekends sometimes.

Were any of your friends inspired by you to start their own businesses? And if so, what are they doing?

Ryan, Barbara, and Team Barkery

Ryan, Barbara, and Team Barkery

I had one friend start a human cookie baking business. My cousin started a comic book sale with his friends in Florida. I know someone who took a case of his mom’s olive oil and she caught him selling it in front of the house!

When I was a child I didn’t even know about shelters. I only found out about them 6 years ago, how do you know about shelters at such a young age?

I know about shelters because my dog Barkley came from one. Also, once we started selling our treats, we were invited to sell at adoption events for shelter dogs with Stamford Animal Relief and Pet Assistance. I’ve learned a LOT about dog adoption from them.

Ryan and Barkley

Ryan and Barkley

I noticed that you made it a point to mention that Barkley was adopted, was it intentional to reference that he was adopted and why?

I guess I always mention that he is adopted, it’s just a habit. If people know they can adopt really cool dogs instead of buying them, there would be less dogs in the shelters. Why buy a dog when you can save a dog?

Are you active in animal rescue and what exactly do you do to help sheltered animals?

I’ve been working closely with Stamford Animal Relief and Pet Assistance for over a year. I have and will still give part of my money back to them. Plus, I put out a tip jar on my table marked for them and dump it before I go home. This money goes to pay for medical bills and food for dogs whose owners can’t afford it anymore, like if they lost their job. This way they don’t have to put the dog in the shelter to begin with. Now that Ryan’s Barkery is bigger than it was last year, we give all of our treats that are a little over baked or not perfectly shaped to the dogs in the shelter near my house. I bet they don’t get a ton of treats, and I bet they love them.

What are your plans for building your business? Do you see this as a long-term venture into adulthood?

My plans for building my business…now that a lot more people know about my product, I would like to be in more stores so people everywhere can get my treats for their dogs! We are working on new flavors, and a grain free treat for dogs with allergies.

I’m working really hard to make Ryan’s Barkery a long term success! My mom and Barbara and I work closely together, and I’m learning so much.

To learn more about Ryan’s Barkery and their tasty treats for your animal family, please visit Ryan’s website at

I want to thank you, Ryan, for this in-depth interview. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and hearing your thoughts about your involvement in animal shelters, your success with Ryan’s Barkery and hearing about your plans for the future, which I have no doubt will come to fruition.

But wait, this interview is not over. We are honored to have had the opportunity to speak with Ryan’s mom, Daniela, who has also been an inspiration to me and many other parents. To read about Daniela and how wonderful it feels to be a part of this awesome journey with her son and entire family click here!

Max P. Productions is a children’s book publisher focused on empowering children through story. The information in this interview is copyright 2013 Max P. Productions. Use of this interview in part or in whole must be granted by Max P. Productions. Please contact us at cs at maxpproductions dot com if you wish to use the content in this interview. Thank you.

June 18, 2013 / maxpproductions

Daniela Kelly of Ryan’s Barkery – Part 2

Daniela, Ryan and Family

Daniela, Ryan and Family

I was very impressed by how you allowed Ryan to take the lead with the pitch on Shark Tank. You showed him that you trusted him with something so important to both of you. You even mentioned that this was his business giving him full responsibility for it. You projected your confidence onto him and he ran with it and did a fabulous job and ultimately was successful.

Thank you! I would never have been there if it wasn’t for him, not the other way around! It is his baby, and though I help him and support him, I have always felt that the best way for him to learn from it is to let him forge his own path. Barbara and I guide him and give our opinions on things, but ultimately, he gets the final say and we are both there to support him.

What do you think the ingredients are for success?

I think the ingredients for success are to first of all start with a great idea! I think you have to make yourself the “expert” by learning everything you can about it. It doesn’t have to be a fancy idea or a new invention, you just have to make the commitment to be great at it.  Also, you have to love what you do. It’s a great feeling to look forward to getting up every day.

As a child, did your parents play a major role in instilling the confidence that you so effortlessly instill in Ryan?

My dad, especially, always had a lot of confidence in me. He made me want to try new things. My mom was always the voice of reason that made me think of the consequences before doing something. It was a great balance. I try to teach my boys that it’s great to try new things, even if at first you’re not great at them. Everybody falls, it’s all about how you get back up.

My mom has seen us through every step of starting Ryan’s Barkery and is by our side every minute of the day. My dad passed away last year, but I know he is still my biggest fan and I feel him with us always. Coincidentally, we filmed Shark Tank on the first anniversary of his passing, and I have to believe Barbara was not the only angel in the room with us that day.

Does the business take away from everyday family activities and chores?

YES!! I feel like we have been shot out of a cannon! The house can get messy. There are shipping boxes EVERYWHERE. The kids have missed lacrosse practice (sorry Coach!). However, what we have gained has been worth it. The house will still be standing, the boxes will get shipped out. Lacrosse will still be there. We are a family in the bubble of starting a new business. Things will settle down. It will be different than before, and we are grateful for all of it, messy house and all!

Has starting this business enhanced your relationship with your family and brought you closer together or has it caused any stress?

It has brought the boys closer, absolutely! They work together promoting the product on weekends. Ryan’s older brother Nick is a huge help with the computer and in the kitchen. His younger brother Eric is great with the packaging. Of course it has caused some stress, the most difficult thing has been the adjustment from being a stay at home mom to working full time. That has not been easy. The best thing that has come of all of this is that we are so busy, we have less time to be so sad about losing my father. It has really given all of us purpose and he would be so proud and happy for us, especially my mom.

What advice would you give to a parent, or any adult raising a child, about nurturing their child to success and independence? 

I have always supported my boys by letting them try new things. Sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn’t. I try to let them find their own way. It’s how they discover what truly makes them happy.

The one rule I have as a parent is to never let anyone tell them what they can’t do. If they can dream it, they can do it!

To learn more about Ryan’s Barkery and the tasty treats they offer your animal friends, please visit To read Ryan’s interview click here.

Thank you, Daniela, for sharing your views on success, how you cope with it, and how it has brought your family together. I wish you and your family only the best in your future endeavors. Your dad is watching and celebrating!

Max P. Productions is a children’s book publisher focused on empowering children through story. The information in this interview is copyright 2013 Max P. Productions. Use of this interview in part or in whole must be granted by Max P. Productions. Please contact us at cs at maxpproductions dot com if you wish to use the content in this interview. Thank you.

June 13, 2013 / maxpproductions

Bonding Over Books

Dad and Daughter Reading

Dad and Daughter Reading

Is there such a thing as bonding over books?

When two people come together to read a book, whether parent and child or two friends, they are venturing into territories unknown and will ultimately emerge as two different people altered by the story. But something else wonderful happens while reading together; a bond is formed.

I am always excited to read a book with a child, especially a book of their choice. I love watching them quickly skim the entire shelf to land on a cover that catches their eye then eagerly snatch the book as if it’s the last one and meticulously investigate the cover, searching with their eyes for that intriguing picture that screams “read me,” then touching the cover to feel what’s inside to ultimately flipping quickly through the pages to, quite honestly, see how long it is, if it has hard words and to assess how many pictures it has. Kids! Aren’t they wonderful?

When they finally come to sit down at the table I love to see the eagerness in their faces for me to read to them and the pride they feel in choosing their own book. Soon enough we are headway into the story. At times, I stop and ask them questions about the characters and how they feel about what is going on. And there are times when they stop me to tell me about a similar situation that happened to them. As we make our way deeper into the story I can feel a sense of comfort and trust emerge from our being together and sharing our experiences. We smile and laugh along the way and at the end we feel a sense of closeness. The next time we see each other we are that much closer until at some point we become best friends. What a feeling!

Reading together is an easy and fun way to get to know someone on a more intimate level, even a family member like a child, or a child getting to know their parent. It’s not intimidating and helps two people relax and focus on the story rather than on things of little significance. As one Dad said, “The feeling of connecting with my daughter through story is amazing. Especially when she is wide-eyed and absorbing what I’m saying. I get to cozy next to her and read, so there is definitely a closeness. She listens to me when reading the story and that’s not always the case otherwise!”

When reading together with a child I find that we are more open to sharing our thoughts and feelings about the characters and how they relate to us, we are more apt to share intimate stories that are conjured up by the characters, we’re able to discuss our relationships with family and friends, and we are excited to talk about our adventures and dreams; things that, in regular conversation or in everyday life, we may not express to each other but when reading together we are more likely to share.

So, yes, I believe we do bond over books and I think it’s fantastic.  What do you think? What are your experiences with reading with a child?

The information in this article is copyright 2013 Max P. Productions. Use of this article in part or in whole must be granted by Max P. Productions. Please contact us at cs at maxpproductions dot com if you wish to use the content in this article. Thank you.

June 11, 2013 / maxpproductions

3 Easy Ways to Get Your Child to Read

3 Easy Ways to Get Your Child to Read

3 Easy Ways to Get Your Child to Read

With so many distractions today, it can be challenging to get our children to read more often than not. I find, though, that in the proper setting and with fun incentives children will read, and, quite honestly, I have learned that they actually love to read. My thought is that when they are surrounded by their peers it may not be “cool” to read but when they are by themselves they are more apt to engage in a fun and thought-provoking book. Besides, reading is a private and personal experience; a time when we can let down our guard and become someone else in another place.

Here are 3 easy ways to get your child to read. It’s simple; no rocket science here!

  1. Read after dinner or after homework and during the week. These are times when they are most likely to be in a different frame of mind, not focused so much on being with their peers.
  2. Offer them books or let them choose books that they want to read. Everyone, including children, want to pick out their own stuff whether it be books, clothes or music. Choosing a book to read is no different than choosing what to wear. They want something that fits their style, interest and will make them happy and feel good.
  3. Offer an incentive or a treat when they finish reading a book. Who doesn’t enjoy a treat?! Dogs do! I do! I love treating myself to something special after I complete a task that is challenging for me. It’s usually in the form of food. For a child, it can be a numerous amount of things. It could be an extra hour added to their curfew, a sleep over with a friend, their favorite food, a toy they’ve been graving, or… The list goes on!

During the summer months we all know that it is even more challenging to get children to pick up a book because they want to be outside playing. In this instance, I would suggest sticking to reading before bed. It’s advantageous and fun to go to bed with whimsical or empowering thoughts based on the book you just read. One tends to wake up in the same frame of my mind as when they drifted off to sleep.

I hope this helps and please let us know if you have any ideas. The more the merrier!

The information in this article is copyright 2013 Max P. Productions. Use of this article in part or in whole must be granted by Max P. Productions. Please contact us at cs at maxpproductions dot com if you wish to use the content in this article. Thank you.

June 10, 2013 / maxpproductions

Interview With Mark Walden on Max and Animal Compassion

Good Morning!

I want to share with you an interview we did with Mark Walden, a Dog Handler, Blogger, Treasurer SE Basset Hound Club and Alfie’s Law Foundation and a lover of all animals.

Mark resides in the United Kingdom and in his country Pit Bulls are illegal as well as other dangerous dogs. I happen to love all animals, including Pit Bulls and other so-called dangerous breeds. I believe we all have a place in this world and that education is key to understanding and eliminating fear of such animals. That’s why I so enjoy visiting schools and sharing with them the story of Max (Max, the Shelter Dog). It always leaves me with a sense of hope. Children are just awesome!

Here is the link to the interview

Please enjoy and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to let us know.

Enjoy your day!



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