Charlotte mother pens easy-reader books aimed at boys
Saturday, Feb. 01, 2014

Charlotte mother pens easy-reader books aimed at boys

Beverly Crest resident and veteran teacher Beth Smith started publishing company Zip Line Publishing to produce easy readers that would appeal to first- and second-grade boys learning to read.
  • Learn more:

    “Alien Dude and the Attack of Wormzilla,” by E.K. Smith and illustrated by Peter Grosshauser.

    • Zip Line Publishing, Beth Smith: 704-516-4287



Lake Smith, 13, was a struggling reader when he was in first and second grade.

At the time, he didn’t like to read the early readers because they were either “too girly or too hard,” he said.

As an elementary teacher, Lake’s mother, Beth Smith, had access to many good books; yet Lake still wasn’t interested in reading until they found the “Henry and Mudge” books that had male characters.

“Those books turned him around,” said Smith.

Through her professional and personal experiences, Smith, a 48-year-old Beverly Crest resident, realized there were few books that appealed to boys who were struggling or reluctant readers. She thought there might be a niche she could fill with stories she had been working on for a few years.

Smith scoured bookstores, libraries and book fairs and researched online for boy-friendly books. She also met with book agents and realized how difficult it was to get an easy reader published.

“Many publishers hire educators and experts to write their stories,” said Smith. “Nobody is going to want (my stories).”

Determined to get her series published, Smith left Olde Providence Elementary in 2011 to establish her own publishing label.

She wanted a name that would have to do with kids and movement while sounding cool to first- and second-grade boys. Inspired by her husband, Michael’s, and daughter Sterling’s zipline trip, Smith named her company Zip Line Publishing.

Zip Line Publishing released the first book in Smith’s 10-book “Alien Dude” series in January.

Written by the veteran teacher under the pen name E.K. Smith, and illustrated by award-winning children’s book artist Peter Grosshauser, “Alien Dude and the Attack of Wormzilla” is available at Park Road Books,, Lou Lou’s Corner in Hickory and through Cardinal Lane Book Fairs.

Smith has planned author’s visits to Olde Providence and Elizabeth Lane Elementary Schools.

“My goal is for boys to read these books by themselves without help,” she said.

In writing “Alien Dude and the Attack of Wormzilla,” Smith followed many easy-reader rules. “There are only a few words on a page and repeated sentences,” she said. Difficult words are repeated two to three times throughout the book, and the illustrations help children decipher the words.

Smith also broke a few rules: The book is long at 60 pages; it makes inferences; and there is more than one problem and solution. She felt first- and second-grade boys are more sophisticated.

“Yes, they are beginner readers, but they need a little more credit,” said Smith. If they are capable of playing sophisticated video games, then they are capable of reading a more complicated book than a 4- or 5-year-old boy could read, she said.

During the rough-draft process, Smith asked Lake for input and incorporated a lot of his suggestions.

“I made them better,” said Lake. “I made them more boyish.”

Originally, Alien Dude was named Shade Farley because he wore sunglasses and lived far away, said Smith, but her son wouldn’t even look at the book.

“He didn’t like the name – not cool,” said Smith.

Lake coined the name “Alien Dude” because, he said, “He’s an alien, and ‘dude’ just fit in there.”

“Wormzilla” was Lake’s cross between King Kong and Godzilla.

He also suggested exploding worms, and nixed singing and dancing in favor of farting.

Crismark resident Spencer Chew, 6, loved the results. His mother, Mary Lynn, bought the book and read it to him and his three siblings, ages 11, 9 and 8.

After she finished, Spencer said, “I want to read it again. Except this time, I want to do the reading.”

“I believe that Beth’s primary target was first- and second-grade boys, and she nailed it,” said Lynn.

Marissa Brooks is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marissa? Email her at

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