By Deb Silverthorn
Four-year-old Zolomon Kaliser has not only mastered the ABCs and 123s but he’s teaching them to his friends, family and fans of his recently self-published “The Book About Money” and “The Book About Clocks,” which he wrote and illustrated.
“My books teach people about all kinds of coins — the presidents on them, what the coins are worth and what they are made of,” Zolomon said. “Then they can learn about kinds of clocks and how to tell time. I want people to learn.”
The son of Kim and Merrill, and younger brother of Victoria and Mikayla, Zolomon took to writing his own books when he wasn’t interested in reading anyone else’s. The Akiba kid from Gail Mabel’s pre-K/Chaverim class, who is also home-schooled in math, language arts and science, took a simple assignment beyond expectations when presented to him by Mom and his home-school tutor, Jodie “Rose” Wyffels.
“Since he was 18 months old we knew Zolomon had ‘something’ and he’s using that ‘something’ now,” Kim said. “He loves to learn, he really can’t get enough and so we’re always looking for new ways to keep him challenged, to keep him interested. He goes from the instructional DVDs to educational computer programs but we’d hit a moment where reading and writing wasn’t something he wanted to do any more.”
Prompted to write his own story, Zolomon said he didn’t like working in a journal and he wanted to make his own book — and not one, but two. “I want people to read the books and think it’s amazing, but don’t tell me if it isn’t,” said Zolomon, who does like to read the stories of “Sammy the Spider” and “The Gingerbread Man.” “I think they will be surprised that a kid did it.”
“He loves to learn, it’s endless,” said Jodie, who has a master’s in education. “He is adding and subtracting numbers to four digits, he’s borrowing and carrying numbers, and he really grasps the concepts. He’s a master decoder and I really enjoy our time together. This project is far beyond what we planned, but very exciting!”
Printing the books on Mom’s computer was just the start for this future possible Newbery Award recipient. Coming from a family steeped in the concept of education and mitzvot, Zolomon has taken the books to Akiba to help raise funds for the school’s Discovery program. Forty-one copies were sold at a fundraiser on May 7; the books will also be sold, with all proceeds donated, at the program’s end-of-year fine arts exhibition, “Bloom,” on May 26, which will feature displays of artwork by every Akiba student from the youngest preschoolers through the graduating eighth-graders.
“Zolomon is so sweet and so proud of his work. The books are adorable,” said Shari Handler, director of Akiba’s Discovery, which provides primarily afterschool programming of sports, including soccer and T-ball; music, including choir and instruments; Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Mishmar, additional Torah study. “We have a wonderful campus with incredible potential and our program broadens the depth of learning for our students, bringing the finest of extracurricular programming right here. It’s wonderful how he’s helping our program and how he brought his classmates in to help him sell.”
“I love the Discovery classes and want to make it even better,” said Zolomon, who also studies Hebrew with a private tutor and attends Chinese school on Sundays with his two sisters. “I learned a lot about giving to other people and I want to help.” In response to a friend who told him “We’re gonna be rich” after the Akiba fundraiser, he replied “Nope. It’s a mitzvah and we’re giving it to Discovery.”
Zolomon’s books have also caught the eye of Candace Williams, owner of The Toy Maven and Kids Cooking Company, who has ordered 40 copies. Williams invited Zolomon to be featured with a book signing at the Preston/Forest toy store on June 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Zolomon is so enthused and excited about what he’s doing and we’re excited with and for him. I love that he wants to help others.”
“The books are really cute, really very charming, and I think they will touch a nerve for our clients,” said Candace, who has a master’s in education and believes she responded so strongly in part because of her many years as a teacher. Of the books he’s sold to The Toy Maven, Zolomon plans to donate 20 percent of the proceeds to PBS, distributor of his favorite television programming: “Sid the Science Kid,” “Super WHY!” and “Between the Lions.”
“I’m thrilled my children are interested in learning and giving,” Kim said. She has supported the pursuit of projects for her daughters that have been incorporated into the Akiba classrooms of Liz Morris and Lorre Degani. These include a pen-pal program with children in Uganda and a fundraising project where students made bracelets with proceeds helping the children of Uganda, Haiti and The Chiapas Project, an organization that supports microfinancing programs for women in poverty.
Reading, writing and arithmetic, Zolomon Kaliser has pencil in hand, ideas in mind. If “time is money,” than this young author has both in the bag — his pencil bag.