In addition to accumulating awards from organizations around the nation, Carl Sommer has been involved in the fields of publishing and education for years. Much of his participation in these international communities is outlined on the Advance Publishing website, which points to many of the places to which Sommer has been to promote his work:
“Across the nation, Sommer appeared on radio and television programs, including the nationally syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show. He has served on the Texas State Board of Education Review Committee and taught a Junior Achievement economics course at Prague University, Czech Republic. The International Biographical Centre in Cambridge, England, has also nominated him for International Writer of the Year.”
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Carl Sommer is a veteran, an educator, and the founder and president of a machining company, a recording studio, and a book publishing company called Advance Publishing. All of Sommer’s businesses are run by family, including Advance Publishing, which is managed by one of Sommer’s sons. Hailing from Houston, Texas, Advance Publishing has given Sommer a platform for his passion and brought reluctant readers to his pages over the years.
Sommer worked as an educator in New York City, then moved south before reentering a different trade. “I moved to Houston, and the pay was insufficient for teaching to support my family. I went back to my trade as a tool and die maker. Then I became a tool designer and operations manager for a large tool and die company. In 1986 I started an electrical discharge machining company with my two sons, and today we’re the largest company of its kind in North America.” Having two of his sons manage the machining company while another manages Advance Publishing “allows him to pursue his passion for writing,” the company website reads.
Sommer’s first book is Schools in Crisis: Training for Success or Failure?, which he wrote as he became aware of the problems with education in America. “At the age of 40 I became a high school teacher in New York City. I experienced firsthand the deterioration of American education and decided to do write about the crisis and solutions. I took a year’s leave of absence and became a substitute teacher in 27 different schools teaching all grades from 1-12. It took me ten years to complete the book, for it was in the days of using a typewriting and cutting and pasting over and over again.”
Having studied the education system for a decade, Sommer’s first book, he describes, “...is a book dealing with the educational, disciplinal, racial, and moral crisis in American schools and presenting solutions.” His interest in the education system has carried through to his work as an author and publisher in that his main focus is passing knowledge to younger generations and doing so in a way that is accessible to students everywhere.
“I believe that the future health of society can be determined by the knowledge and values it passes onto its children. Advance Publishing is aiming to enable children and youth to live successful lives, which results in stronger families, better schools, and a safer and more productive society,” says Sommer, echoing Advance Publishing’s mission statement. With this mission in mind, Sommer has created numerous books series and stocked the company website with free resources for its visitors.
The Sommer-Time Story reading series includes 24 picture books that are available in English, Spanish, and with a DVD video component. The series features “motivational children’s books, read-alongs, and DVD videos that impart virtues and principles for success for children.” Along with these books, Sommer has developed the Phonics Adventure and Number Success projects. Phonics Adventure is “a motivational phonics literature-based reading program for kindergarten through grade two consisting of textbooks and action-filled readers. In Kindergarten alone there are 40 readers,” Sommer describes. “Incorporated into this program are my character-building stories. It is not finished yet, but it [is] colorful, has songs, games, apps, and interesting activities to make learning fun and educational.” This is the largest program at Advance Publishing.
Along with Phonics Adventure comes Number Success, “a free video practical mathematics series from addition to trigonometry, supplemented by workbooks and with over 550 videos,” Sommer adds. “Number Successdemonstrates real-world math that is both relevant and interesting. It answers children’s perennial question, ‘Where will I ever use this math?’”
The Number Success program uses math books and videos that present everyday situations in which students apply the math skills that they have learned. Sommer puts his readers “on location” to show them real-world uses for the knowledge that they are gaining. The series is also built for an array of settings. “Number Successis designed for either self-directed or teacher-directed learning,” including “adult classes, individualized learning, group learning, home schools, and remedial classes,” the company website explains.
Advance Publishing has a section of resources that are free and open to the public. These resources feature some of the Sommer-Time stories as well as web games for children. The combination of text-based and audio-visual resources broadens the audience for these free resources and creates an interactive, shareable set of tools for visitors to use.
“From day one my passion was to provide exciting and motivating character-building resources that train and motivate children with positive virtues and life skills which enable them to live successful lives,” Sommer states. “I have been a U.S. Marine during the Korean conflict, high school teacher, assistant dean of boys, foreman, tool designer, operations manager, and business owner. With my various background, I decided to write unique storybooks where the story presented values that would help children.
“I didn’t what ‘hit them over the head’ value storybooks, but rather [to] present children with an interesting story that at the same time promoted virtues. Along with these picture books we produced read-alongs and videos where I share with children principles about being successful.” By launching his various works on multiple platforms, Sommer has found new ways to reach his audience over the years.
The work that Sommer puts forth under Advance Publishing has garnered much attention over the years. “These character-building resources have won over 50 prestigious awards. Some of the awards are Teacher’s Choice Award, Family Choice Award, Kids First Award, Benjamin Franklin Award, Children’s Choice Award, Reviewers Choice Award, Mom’s Choice Award, and the National ‘Best Books’ Award,” Sommer lists.
He continues, “One of my books, The Ugly Caterpillar, was the top picture book for the Benjamin Franklin award. These books have been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Afrikaans, and Korean. Recently we signed a foreign rights contract for 240,000 books with a large Chinese publisher for 24 of our books. Our videos are shown around the world on Smile of a Child TV.”
Access to award-winning, intriguing stories and tangible examples of complex ideas could mean a world of difference in reluctant readers’ approach to literature and mathematics. In Sommer’s words, “It is best if learning can be educational and interesting.” Advance Publishing gives Carl Sommer an opportunity to demonstrate this commitment to his audience by providing digital readers and media consumers access to new ideas and stories, making an effort to reach today’s reluctant readers on an array of platforms. Creating an inclusive reading environment by keeping a diverse audience in mind keeps Advance Publishing moving forward.
Ariel Bronson is a University of Michigan alumna with a degree in English and communication studies and a certificate in publishing from the University of Denver Publishing Institute.