Local bookstore owner to lead literacy coalition


Jenna Martinez loves to read.

The 34-year-old Brownstown resident has been an avid reader since she was a young girl, and as a child, her dream job was to get paid to read, and she had always wanted a bookstore.

That dream of owning a bookstore came true Aug. 1, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when she opened The Magic of Books Bookstore, 113 W. Second St., Seymour.

Almost two years later, she has continued to put reading and books at the forefront of all she does.

Besides owning the bookstore, Martinez has now taken on the role of executive director of Read Jackson County/Plaza Latina.

The bookstore will not be not closing due to her new position.

“We have a young lady, Millie Hays, who had been volunteering at the store, and we recently hired her as a full-time employee,” she said. “The bookstore is closed on Mondays, so I’ll be dedicating the whole day to being here (Read Jackson County office) at JCLC on those days.”

The other days of the week, Martinez will be working out the schedule according to what time Hays arrives at the store.

Martinez had not been involved in Read Jackson County prior to becoming director, but she knew about its programs and had worked with Pam Kindel, coordinator of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Jackson County.

“I’m also familiar with the Little Libraries because I would take books that we no longer needed at the bookstore and I’d fill the Little Libraries around town and fill the one we have at our house,” she said.

Martinez found out about the executive director position from friend and Read Jackson County Secretary January Rutherford.

“She said Anne Staley was going to be stepping down and they needed to find a new director, and she thought I’d be a good fit,” she said. “I decided I’d give it a try, so I applied for the position and here I am.”

Martinez is coming up with some fresh ideas for the coming year and hopes to get some of the regular Read Jackson County programs up and running again.

“My first order of business is to get the Read Rocket program kick-started back up because it has been postponed for a while, and they were having issues with getting volunteers,” Martinez said. “It’s a program where tutors volunteer to help children who are struggling with their reading.”

She said kids don’t seem to be reading much for pleasure these days, so giving them access to reading materials is huge.

“That’s something I love about the free Little Libraries because that’s exactly what that does,” Martinez said. “It gives people access who might not have the means or a way to get reading materials, and some kids might not get the chance to go to the library, so having those Little Libraries in your community and your neighborhood is huge for children.”

She said with the internet and other distractions, people need to make reading fun again.

Jenna and her husband, Larry, have two children, Kaiden, who is almost 5, and Harper, who is almost 2.

“Kaiden is very big into monster trucks right now, and we bought him a huge monster truck book from a Scholastic Book Fair at his school,” she said. “It goes through the parts of a monster truck and that’s his favorite right now, but Harper doesn’t really have a favorite, but she’ll bring me anything and everything and ask me to read it.”

Martinez said her favorite author is Sherrilyn Kenyon, who writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

“I’ve met her several times, got her autograph and pictures. She’s just awesome,” she said. “Right now, I’m really into Kristy Nicolle, who writes fantasy romance as well and writes about fairies, mermaids, faes, dragons and things like that.”

Martinez said she is excited for the coming year, and she loves helping the community and doing things for people, which she has had the opportunity to do through her bookstore. She believes her new role as executive director will be another outlet that will allow her to continue those efforts to help others.

Becky Bujwid, president of Read Jackson County, said Martinez is so enthusiastic about promoting literacy, both through Read Jackson County and her bookstore.

She said Martinez enjoys taking on challenges to get the community involved in literacy programs, is a go-getter and has many good ideas, which the board members hope to put into action.

“Jenna was the all-around best choice to build on the programs we currently have and develop new ones that will benefit the communities throughout Jackson County and our mission of promoting literacy in our county,” Bujwid said. “Jenna will be the guiding force for Read Jackson County.”

She said Martinez will engage with community organizations throughout Jackson County to let them know or remind them of the organization’s existence, develop new programs and fundraising opportunities, write grants to fund programs and partner with other groups to share ideas and work together.

Before Martinez became executive director, Staley served in the role for two years. Matt Nicholson preceded Staley and was the director for five years until he was elected mayor of Seymour.

“Anne left Read Jackson County because she started her shop, 812 Rustics, and anyone who has started their own business knows you need to put 110% of your efforts into getting the business established and running,” Bujwid said. “She is enjoying the creativity, passion and love she put into her role as executive director at Read Jackson County into her new shop.”

She said Staley will still be available to help them out as needed and will work with Martinez in getting her familiar with all Read Jackson County has going on.

Vice President Amy Heideman said some of the programs had to be put on hold due to volunteer shortages and while the board searched for a new director.

“With the new director on board, we hope to get programming running smoothly again soon,” she said. “Read Jackson County is always looking for volunteers to help tutor both children and adults.”

The organization accepts donations of used books to help supply the Little Free Libraries throughout the county, and monetary donations also are helpful to support the various programs, such as Babies, Books and Blankets.

Anyone interested in joining the board is welcome to attend a meeting and talk to the director and/or other board members to learn about the organization. For information, visit readjacksoncounty.com.

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