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February—Shevat 2011

Mazel Parents Association Mazel Newsletter Editorial Team

PARENTING IN THE TORAH: QUOTE OF THE MONTH ―It is an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the education of children, and to do everything in his power and beyond his power - to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided.‖ - Rabbi Yosef Y. Schneerson, Lubavitcher Rebbe

PAGE2: Irene’s February Picks Weekend Activities for the Family

PAGE3: Help! Do you have any tips as to how I can motivate my kids to read? I have a 4-year old and a 7-year old and I just can’t seem to get them interested.

PAGE4: Recipes Jack LaLanne Tribute + Shabbat Cholent

PAGE5: Parent Talk Interview This Month: Irina Zinger

PAGE6: Teacher Talk Interview This Month: Second Grade


Please join Mazel Parents Association and your child’s teachers in participating in Literacy Month this February! We have many exciting activities and events planned - all aimed at increasing your child’s love of reading!


It is a well-known fact that when there were no televisions or computers, reading was a primary leisure activity. People would spend hours reading books and travel to lands far away-in their minds. With time, many people have lost their skill and passion to read. This is unfortunate, as reading offers a productive approach to improving vocabulary and word power. Children who love reading have comparatively higher IQs. They are more creative and do better in school and college! Reading is said to significantly help in developing vocabulary and reading aloud helps to build a strong emotional bond between parents and children. The children who start reading from an early age are observed to have good language skills, and they grasp the variances in phonics much better. Furthermore, reading helps in mental development and is known to stimulate the muscles of the eyes. Reading is an activity that involves greater levels of concentration and adds to the conversational skills of the reader. The benefits of reading are endless!


Happiness is Homemade By: Rachel Arbus


February is Literacy Month at Mazel Day School For a schedule of events, see p. 2 President’s Weekend – School is Closed Friday, February 18th through Monday, February 21st. School resumes on Tuesday, February 22nd. Parenting Discussion Group: “When They Don’t Listen” See p. 5 for more information. Wednesday, February 23 · 8:30 pm



IRENE’S WEEKEND PICKS ―I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.‖ Groucho Marx ―Any book that helps a child form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.‖ Maya Angelou These are just two quotes of thousands on the importance of reading. With Mazel School literacy month happening throughout the month of February, I wanted to take the opportunity and offer few additional options to explore with your young ones to continue their reading journey, but first things first. LITERACY MONTH AT MAZEL: “READING AT HOME” (2/17 in the evening) - Join Myra Rose, Mazel’s expert literacy consultant, for an information session specially designed for parents, focusing on reading at home & developing a life-long love of reading in children! Look out for the e-vite to this exciting event! “PARENT READ ALOUD” – parents will be able to sign up to visit their child’s class and read his/her favorite book to the class! Contact your child’s teachers to schedule a visit. “MEET THE AUTHOR“ (Date to be announced) – a children’s book author will visit Mazel and share her passion for reading and writing books with students! “MAZEL BOOK SALE“ (2/7-2/11) - Mazel will hold a weeklong book sale featuring fantastic books for children of all ages that will make great additions to your home library! In addition to all this, the teachers of Mazel Day School have fun and exciting activities planned for the children – including visiting the library, writing stories, and much, much more!!! LITERACY ACTIVITIES TO DO AT HOME ON THE WEEKENDS: Join The Barnes and Noble Kids Club - Get 30% off list price on any one kids' book or toy as a welcome gift online or in a Barnes & Noble store, as well as $5 reward for every $100 you spend on kids' stuff. As part of the Birthday Club Barnes and Noble will send presents for each of your children's birthdays and before the big date, will SEND you a coupon for a FREE cupcake or cookie from a Barnes & Noble Café that you can use anytime during your child's birthday week! What's more, you'll also be able to treat them to a FREE create a book project on

Compiled by Irene Gabo

Let your children create and publish their own book Go to, an award winning site endorsed by educators, to let kids create their own unique masterpieces. They’ll get a chance to write a story, upload pictures or personal illustrations, bringing stories to life in a soft or hardcover book. The possibilities are endless. Visit Yeshiva University Museum and its Center for Jewish History - Now through July 24, 2011 take your kids to view Miriam and Israel Wertentheil Collection which relate to the life of children and childhood in Jewish culture, ranging from objects of play to religious observance, of festive celebration to mystical protection. Then let them trace their roots by discovering their family history and learning about their ancestors at the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute which assists people from around the world find their roots. It would be great for the kids to then relate their experience in a Tikatok book (see above) which will make a wonderful gift for grandparents. Finally, spend time going through Ruth Schreiber’s collection called Letters from my Grandparents now through July 24, 2011.

Learn about all the reading events at your local library - Every branch of the Brooklyn Public Library has its own story time events for children of all ages. For more info go to first5years . Visit the Kids Library at the Jewish Children’s Museum Filled with Jewish books, this remarkable resource enables visitors and members of the community to explore a wide range of topics, including Jewish holidays and observance, Jewish thought and theology, history and more. For more info go to Find a bookstore you and your kids will love - I really like Book Court in Downtown Brooklyn which maintains kid blog on their website and allows kids to recommend books to other families by leaving reviews on the shelves. Visit for more info Scholastic, it’s not just catalog ordering anymore Scholastic's first-ever retail outlet, The Scholastic Store offers 5,500 square feet of Scholastic products. Story Times are at 11am most Tuesdays and Thursdays. Craft Workshops are offered at 4:30pm most Tue through Thu ($5 materials fee). See their calendar for other special events at scholasticstores.



MODERN PARENTING Help! Do you have any tips as to how I can motivate my kids to read? I have a 4-year old and a 7-year old and I just can’t seem to get them interested . Chani: Getting our kids to ―fall in love‖ with books can either come easy as pie or be an uphill battle – depending on the child. Some children naturally develop the skills and abilities that make literacy enjoyable, while for others ―books are boring‖. Good literacy skills are important not only because of how they impact our children’s learning and language, but even more so because of how they develop our children’s ability to think, to reflect and to empathize with others. Books enable us to think of ideas we hadn’t thought of before, to see situations from new perspectives and to understand another person’s point of view. It’s not coincidental that books are such an integral and in fact, sacred part of Jewish culture. Here are my top seven stress-free tips to help your child learn to enjoy reading: 1. Be a reading role-model: Children who grow up in homes where adults read for their own pleasure are more likely to be motivated to read as well. Think about how often your child sees you reading, and what types of texts they see you enjoy – magazines, newspapers, novels… Sharing interesting things you’ve read recently demonstrates to your child what it is that you take away from your reading experiences. 2. Be a good book matchmaker: We each have a particular ―taste‖ when it comes to reading books. Usually, when a child is not motivated to read, it’s because they haven’t yet read a book that really caught their interest. Figuring out what types of books your child likes can be key in boosting their motivation. For example, some children prefer nonfiction books with interesting facts over fiction stories. Some children love to read books that tell about everyday life experiences that they can relate to, while others like fantasy books that capture their imagination. Sometimes there’s a particular subject that will catch your child’s attention. 3. Familiarize yourself with good children’s books: I will often read children’s books myself before offering them to a child. The joke in my house is: what kids’ book am I reading now? Becoming familiar with children’s books helps me in two ways: Firstly, I can better match a book to a child’s interests. Secondly, we often choose books based on a review we’ve read. This piques our interest and motivates us to read. Similarly, when I can tell a child what a particular book is about, and why I think it’s great, I find that this will often capture their attention. Online bookstores such as Borders or Barnes and Nobles have book lists of award-winning quality books divided by age groups.

by Chani Okonov 4. Offer variety: In your quest to find the ―just right‖ book that will open up your child’s love for books, expose them to many different types of books, genres, and characters. To give yourself better access to a variety of books, get a library card and take out stacks and stacks of books (of course, thinking about your child’s interests). There will usually be something that your child will enjoy. 5. Read aloud until 120: A person is never too old to listen to a story read aloud, yet we often deny our elementary & teenage children this pleasure. Just because your child may already know how to read on their own, this does not mean that you should stop reading aloud to them. In fact, listening to text read aloud helps your child develop critical listening comprehension – a skill completely separate from written comprehension. So even if your child is not motivated to read independently, if you read to them aloud nightly, you are still developing their literacy. 6. Talk about reading: Book clubs are lots of fun because they give us the opportunity to share our thoughts about texts we’ve read. Talking about reading helps us develop our ideas and reflections. Some great conversation leads might be (depending on the age/maturity of your child): ―My favorite part was when… What was yours?‖ or ―I wonder why he did that… What do you think?‖ or ―This book reminds me of when… What does it remind you of?‖ or ―When we read this part, I got a picture in my head of what it looked like. I could almost see/smell/feel the…‖ 7. Make reading special: Reading should have positive associations for children. Sometimes, in our quest to ―get our child to read‖ we place too much pressure on them, and they learn to hate reading instead. Make reading a cozy experience. Curl up on the couch with a book, and invite your child to cuddle up beside you with their own. Reading at bedtime is naturally a nurturing time. Books can also be made special when used as a special treat. For example, you can visit a book shop once in a while and allow your child to spend up to a certain dollar amount on books of his or her choice. On a final note, don’t feel the need to offer your child poor quality books that have cartoon or other commercial characters in an effort to get them reading. Your intent in giving your child books is much more than just to give them the opportunity to practice the mechanics of reading, but to develop good language and to open up their minds and hearts. Your creativity, thoughtfulness and dedication to finding a quality ―just-right‖ book will pay off in the long run. Chani Okonov, Educational Director To comment on our Help! Column or propose a question for the next month, email us at



Compiled by Alla Vasserman

KIDS’ FAVORITES Jack LaLanne was a founder of Bally Total Fitness He was first to encourage women to lift weights. He believed fitness had to be a combination of exercise and nutrition -- not one or the other. His two simple rules of nutrition were: "if man made it, don't eat it", and "if it tastes good, spit it out." He often said, "I can't die, it would ruin my image." He died on January 24th, 2011 at age of 96 from the complications of pneumonia. One of the ways he believed people could get vital nutrients was through juicing. He introduced the Power Juicer and touted the benefits of including juice in ones diet as a phenomenal way to get in a lot of fruits and vegetables -- and thereby nutrients -- in one quick, easy meal. Here are two of his famous recipes Jack's Super 7 2 carrots 1 potato 2 broccoli florets 1/2 small beet 1/4 red pepper 1 tomato 1/4 cucumber Emerald Glow This one uses kale, which is known for its cancer-fighting properties and ability to lower cholesterol. 1 cup spinach 3 kale leaves 2 cups green seedless grapes 1/4 pineapple (rind removed) 2‖ piece aloe (rind removed) Juice the aloe first. Remove aloe pulp from the pulp collector and pour into the juice cup. Juice the rest of the ingredients. Mix and serve. Add to juicer in that order and juice.



Jack LaLanne Tribute

CHOLENT Cholent is a dish traditional served on Saturday afternoon as part of the Shabbat meal. Sefardic Jews call this dish Chamim. This custom began when a sect of Jews tried to disprove that hot foods warmed on a fire lit before Shabbat were allowed to be eaten. To emphasize that it was permitted to prepare a fire before Shabbat and place food on it for the following afternoon, Jews began to cook this delicious stew. This recipe is an Ashkenazi version. Sefardic versions usually include hard -boiled eggs (in its shell), rice, chickpeas, and lots of spices.

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1 cup kidney beans 1 cup navy beans 1 cup pinto beans ½ cup baby lima ½ cup barley 2 meat bones 2 pounds of meat 3 small onions cubed 5 cloves garlic peeled 2 tablespoons salt 1 teaspoon pepper ¼ cup ketchup or tomato cubed 1 bunch cilantro 8 medium potatoes cubed

Soak beans overnight. Drain and discard any stones. Place beans in 8 quart pot and cover the top of the beans with one inch of water. Add the meat and meat bones. Combine remaining ingredients except for potatoes in food processor and mix. Pour mixture over the meat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours on a low flame. Add potatoes and simmer for one hour more. Before Shabbat, place in a crockpot or in a pot atop an aluminum stove cover (―blech‖) & add one inch of water above the ingredients. To watch a demonstration of cholent being cooked go to: article_cdo/aid/109214/jewish/Cholent.htm



PARENT INTERVIEW IRINA ZINGER is a parent of two daughters at Mazel, Alice (4th Grade) and Sara (Kindergarten), and an Art teacher at Mazel Day School. She was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and immigrated to the Land of Opportunities in December of 1991. Irina is married and has four daughters, Bella (12), Alice (9), Sara (5) and Miriam Rivka (16 months). She resides in Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn. Irina has a Bachelor Degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Art Therapy. Among her family and friends she is known as a creative person and a great cook. Below are some excerpts from our conversation with Irina. Our previous parent interviews were with parents of secular backgrounds. Your family, on the other hand, is observant. Were you always observant and if not, how did you become observant? Yes, my husband and I consider ourselves baal tshuva, because we did not know about our tradition when we were growing up. It was a slow process of becoming observant. We gradually took upon ourselves observing more and more mitzvahs. We still have a lot to learn. How do you manage the daily tasks along with limitations of the religious lifestyle? I can say that I am familiar with both lifestyles-secular and religious. My life is much more meaningful now, it has a direction, and yes, it is stressful sometimes, especially at the erev Shabbos, or in preparation for holidays. I learn to see these stresses from a different angle: first, as opportunities to change my undesirable character traits, and second as blessings – I have so much to be thankful for. Why Mazel? How does Mazel complement your views about Jewdaism and your lifestyle? When I first found out about Mazel, I was extremely excited. It was my dream school -Jewish, warm atmosphere with high educational standards. I am very thankful to all the teachers who made my kids want to come to school, and who still do. Thanks to Morah Inna and Minna, Morah Eva with her crafts and care for our kids after school, Morah Bella with her Chalos every Shabbos. Morah Batia and Morah Nechama Dena. What I see as a common denominator for all of them is high professionalism and care for children. I am so grateful to know these people. February is a literacy month. What are some of your tips on advancing literacy in your family? I am an avid reader. My older daughters love to read as well. I think parental example is the key. My kids have a few of favorite stories, so when there is a quiet moment, we like to reread them. Sometimes I would read my favorite children stories to them in Russian. We also make our own stories. Recently my older ones made a little

by Anna Ashurov book with stories and illustrations on their own - I was very surprised and proud. What is your favorite book? What book are you currently reading? My favorite book is Karlson by Astrid Lindgren. Right now I’m reading Kids Speak: Children Talk About Themselves by Chaim Walder - a collection of essays written by children aged 8-11 describing their personal problems, their fears, and their unusual experiences. You have an amazing profession. Why art? How did you choose your profession? I feel that my profession chose me. Everything about it just clicks – my appreciation for art, communication with other people, opportunity to be creative. I see it as a gift from Hashem, as well as everything else in my life. My appreciation of art is emotional. I approach works of art from two sides-―I like it‖ or ―I do not like it‖. Old Masters mesmerize me; and I like modern art because it is so democratic – it makes you feel you can do it. That is why I show kids at Mazel works of XIX-XX century artists. They are colorful, and are often easy to understand. In addition, learning about lives of artists helps to appreciate their art even more. Tell us some fun facts about yourself. What are your hobbies? Guilty pleasures? I love sweets! I am a passionate home decorator – my house is my hobby! I also love to cook! Thank you so much for your time. What are some final thoughts that are on your mind? Do you have any advice for our readers? I wanted to add a word of appreciation for Chani Okonov – she gave me the chance to work for Mazel, and I think that she is a person who makes Mazel the school it is. To parents, here is a thought that was meaningful to me - a cloudy morning does not signify a rainy day.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! PARENTING DISCUSSION GROUP Mazel Day School's NEW monthly Parenting Discussion Group is for moms and dads. Gleaning insights from Judaism's wisdoms, each month we will explore different topics that relate to modern-day parenting. Wednesday, February 23 · 8:30pm Join us for our SECOND session: "When They Don't Listen". Whether we call them Consequences or Punishments, how we react when our children don't do what they are told can be one of the greatest challenges of parenting. Let's talk, share experiences, laugh, and gain inspiration! Looking forward to seeing you there. Bring a friend along!



TEACHER INTERVIEW Dear Parents, Every issue we bring you a discussion with one of the school’s Morahs. For this issue we sat down with Morah Batya, the Second Grade teacher at Mazel. To see the Second Grade class in action visit BATYA ENGEL is the Second Grade Teacher at Mazel Day School. Morah Batya is a seasoned and master Mazel teacher. A passionate and successful educator, she has been contributing to the Mazel legacy for the last eight years. We hope that this interview will give you a good picture of the school’s vision, strengths, and values. Please tell us about yourself : My name is Morah Batya R. Engel. I’ve been teaching in Mazel for eight years now. I have a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College in Behavioral Sciences, specializing in Special Education and Regular Education up to grade 6. After receiving my bachelor’s degree, I went on to study for and received my master’s degree, specializing in Literacy Instruction. I am currently licensed by the NYS Board of Education in Regular Education, Special Education and Literacy. Additionally, I have received Montessori Certification from the North American Montessori Center and use Montessori methods and materials in my 2nd grade classroom. I live in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, with my husband, Rabbi Sadya Engel and two beautiful daughters--Mushka (age 2) and Esther (age 10 weeks) and I’ve written two books on preschool curriculum. If asked to teach one academic subject what would you choose? That’s a tough one because I love so many subjects. I guess the one subject I really love teaching is math because I really relate to the logic of mathematics and numbers and I love watching the children figure things out in math. What is your favorite thing to do? Is there a story behind it? Besides teaching, and being with my family, I think my favorite thing to do is read. I really enjoy those now rare moments when I can sit on couch or in bed with a book and get lost in the world of literacy. I’ve always loved reading and really appreciated the way books allowed me to cultivate my imagination and increase my knowledge and understanding of the world. My parents did not especially enjoy the days I went to the library because I would come home with a pile of books, settle in

by Alla Vasserman the corner of the couch and forget about the world around me, however despite that, they encouraged my passion for reading. When I started working, a portion of my salary always went to purchasing quality books. What are in your opinion the winning points of the Mazel elementary school in comparison to other educational institutions? I've been teaching in Mazel for over 8 years now and what I loved most about it is how everyone is very supportive and helpful. I also think that Mazel really works with the teachers and parents to cater to every single student and differentiate instruction as necessary. The small class size and large teacher to student ratio enables us to reach every student and prevent any one student from ―falling between the cracks‖. The way that the administration is involved and aware of every single student’s progress (or lack thereof) helps pinpoint issues right at the start while it is still easy to remediate. How can our parents best accommodate the transition from K to the 1st grade? I don’t teach 1st grade, so this is a tough question for me to really answer, but I do know that it is important to read, read, and read. Read to your child, read with your child, encourage your child to read alone. It is also important to expose your child to various experiences that will make formal learning easier: Take your child to the grocery store and have him give the money to the cashier and count out the change, while naming the coins; Point out the clock and periodically say what time it is; Count and do simple verbal math problems such as we have five apples and I’m eating one, how many are left etc. Most of these suggestions will help children transition from 1st grade to 2nd grade as well. Mazel school spends considerate amount of time on the daily basis teaching our kids to be better people – better friends, classmates, siblings. Do you in your class continue working on it and if yes – how? We most definitely continue working on it! It is my goal that the children graduate second grade with social independence (able to solve social conflict independently with minimal adult help) and emotional sensitivity to others. We work on it through daily discussions, roleplaying, reading books about it and highlighting social accomplishments both at home and in school. I strongly feel that this is much more important than any math, science or reading skills the children may learn. While you can get away in the world with not having good academic skills, social skills and being a mentch (a person of integrity) is an absolute must in order to succeed with good relationships. Continued on the next page



TEACHER INTERVIEW Due to diversity of Mazel’s families, when considering elementary school, parents face a wide range of school choices: from yeshivas to public education plus Sunday school on a side for Judaic enrichment. It is a fact that some of the parents who plan to have their kids enroll in yeshiva also seriously consider the public school option. Do you have an advice for such parents? I think that one of the major aspects of our school is the way our Judaic curriculum is on one hand very thorough, almost equal to a yeshiva education, while at the same time non-judgmental. When learning about various aspects of Jewish observance, it is always presented in ways that make all children feel comfortable regardless of their level of observance. Stress is placed on the fact that we are all Jewish and beloved by Hashem just by virtue of being Jewish and that in different families, things are done differently. I think that this kind of Jewish education gives children a strong pride in being Jewish regardless of their level of observance at home. At the same time there is a strong emphasis on high quality general education, often surpassing that of a public school. The very fact that we have small class sizes and individualized instruction and attention, enables every child to succeed to the best of his ability. I think that Mazel really is the perfect balance of Judaic studies and general studies, making it a perfect choice for parents who want quality general education while at the same time giving children the opportunity to explore their heritage in a non-judgmental environment. How do you teach your students time management skills and what can parents do to help with this at home? I will usually give assignments and tell children how long they have to complete it. This teaches the children to structure their time wisely, because often those that are fooling around, have to complete it while the rest of the class is doing something more exciting or having recess. At home, helping children structure their homework or daily chores and deciding how much time to spend on each aspect can help with time management skills. As parents we want our children to participate in various activities such as sports, music, etc. or, simply, let them rest and play. As a result, children come home late and have an hour or so before they go to bed. Do you think it is more productive for the elementary school students to do their entire weekly homework during the weekends or on the daily basis late at night? I sincerely believe that many aspects of homework require daily review, at the same time they don’t need to be done late at night and can be incorporated throughout the afternoon. Things such as reviewing multiplication tables, spelling words, and poetry can be reviewed in the car, train or bus and are vital to be done on a daily

basis. Reading is also important daily but can be incorporated as part of a bedtime routine. I also feel very strongly that homework should not take more than 45 minutes a night and if it’s taking longer than that, then you should speak to your child’s teacher to perhaps reevaluate it. When children are in an elementary school, do you think their parents should actively participate in homework preparation. Please elaborate. I think that homework is meant for the children as a review and for the teacher to assess how well a child has mastered a certain skill. That being said, when parents sit with their children and insist that they do everything correctly, the teacher misses out on a vital assessment opportunity and will often not be aware that a child is struggling with something until a test. However, there are ways that a parent can and should participate in homework preparation. Parents should help children create a ―homework space‖ free of distractions and containing all necessary equipment such as sharpened pencils, erasers, rulers, dictionaries etc. Setting a set daily routine will get rid of many of the ―homework battles‖. A routine such as coming home from school, having a snack and then settling down for homework works well, but each family needs to determine what would work for them. A parent can also help by working with their child to structure the homework time, decide how much time to spend on each assignment and which part to do first, second, etc. If a parent sees that there are aspects of homework that are too difficult for their child to complete on his own, it is important to communicate that with the teacher. When children are 4-5 years old they are hungry for closeness and want to share their world with us. Do you think it changes when they become elementary school students? If yes, how in your opinion parents should maintain their closeness with children and keep their relationships stimulating for both parties? I think that elementary school students are still hungry for that closeness and want to share their world with us, but in a different way. (Don’t we all crave that closeness as adults as well?) Children at this age are exploring their world with all of the new skills they are learning on a daily basis and crave their independence. It is important to listen to your children and spend time with them doing things that interest them. Go to the library together and find books on subjects that interest your child. Listen to your child and let him lead the way. Cultivating his interests in this way will send a very strong message that you are interested in his world and want to participate in it on his terms.





Special note of appreciation to those parents who made gift donations to school over the past month: Raykhman family (Benny) donated sensory balls for Pre-Nursery...Gabo family (Rachel and Yonni) donated two games to Nursery and books for the Pre-K library… Gleyzer family(Alisa) donated two books to Kindergarten… Fortel family (Freida) donated a scrabble game to the Fourth/Fifth Grade… Ozeryanskiy family (Mirelle) donated recycling cans to the preschool and elementary school. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Whether you want to give a gift to your child’s class in honor of his/her birthday or just because … check out your class’s online wish list selected by your child’s teacher.


@ Masbia Soup Kitchen

Tu BShvat Fruit Party


MAZEL DAY SCHOOL 2901 - 2915 Brighton 6th St Brooklyn, NY 11235 Phone: 718-368-4490 E-mail:



Parent Page Feb 2011: Literacy Month  
Parent Page Feb 2011: Literacy Month  

It is a well-known fact that when there were no televi-sions or computers, reading was a primary leisure ac-tivity. People would spend hours...