Topeka publisher turns 14 million kids into authors

Published: May. 9, 2018 at 5:24 PM CDT
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Seeing your name on bookshelves is something most people only imagine.

One Topeka company has spent more than two decades giving students the chance to take their writing beyond the classroom.

Chad Zimmerman is President and CEO of Studentreasures, a company that helps students become published authors of a book they can touch and feel.

"I think people just don't believe it because it's such a professional, printed book," Zimmerman said.

For 20 years, this Topeka based company has provided teachers nationwide with the materials and motivation to turn one-of-a-kind stories into soft or hard covers, for free.

"Once they get the book, the very first copy whether it's an individual book that a child worked on or a classroom collaborative book where all the children did a part of the writing, the first copy is always free," Zimmerman said.

Teachers can request a kit with special paper and instructions. Completed pages are sent back to a 60,000 square foot space in south Topeka where they're scanned, saved and sent to Nashville to be bound.

"We go through everything and make sure each book is perfect every time before we go to print," Zimmerman said.

Printing up to 20,000 books a day, Zimmerman says no subject is off limits for these young authors.

“We see things from 'Santa's Underwater Adventures’ to ‘What I Want to be When I Grow Up,’ to some pretty touching topics,” said Zimmerman. “A child wrote a survival guide for getting through your parents’ divorce.”

It’s an exercise in writing, creativity and teamwork.

“Our product is really a culminating project for the year for many of our schools and they keep it forever in the classroom library,” Zimmerman said.

Studentreasures celebrated 14 million published authors in April. A milestone made in part by the people of Topeka.

“In Topeka you find people that have that kind of caring and over the years we've built a staff that's just second to none in terms of taking care of our customers,” Zimmerman said.

That classroom of customers is expanding to Canada, the Dominican Republic and Ireland.

“Our mission is that every child deserves a memory that lasts forever and every child is not just the children in the United States and not just the children that can afford to pay for a book,” Zimmerman said.

They're putting more coffee table classics onto the shelves of classrooms and into the hearts of students and teachers.

“The value in a book is having that child, your grandchild, or whatever sit on your lap and read the book along with you,” said Zimmerman. “It's that look in their face, that excitement that makes this all worthwhile.”

Parents and anyone else can purchase more books which Zimmerman says most do. That's how the company is able to offer the rest of the process at no cost.