A Familiar Tune

by Tina Manzer

At EDexpo, new educational products company PBS Publishing introduced its Ultimate Skill Builder books to the market. Designed for preschoolers and first graders, the books are unique – each one incorporates music to help teach basic skills.

“We received great feedback,” said Liz Mullen, director of sales in a recent interview. “Dealers really liked our price points – adding the music makes the books such a value. Children learn visually, but they also learn by listening and doing. That’s why our products include visual, auditory and kinesthetic activities.”

She added: “I love EDexpo and have always supported it. We fully intend to exhibit in Las Vegas next year.”

The company may be new to us but Liz is a school supply industry veteran. In 1995, she joined Twin Sisters Productions, a children’s book- and-music company founded by Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand and Kim Mitzo Thompson. As their national sales manager, Liz attended her first EDmarket trade show within a week of being hired, and has manned the Twin Sisters booth every year since. “Customers became lifelong friends,” she notes. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”

PBS Publishing is a division of 75-year-old printing company Precision Business Solutions, one of Twin Sisters’ publishing partners. “Kim and Karen developed the Creative Teaching Materials brand and helped PBS Publishing launch it,” Liz explains. “Today they help lead the team’s strategic growth plans.

“The owners of PBS are forward-thinkers,” she adds. “After printing educational products for other publishers for many years, they wanted to make an impact on the industry with their own brand. Going forward, we have an aggressive product development plan, and want to see school supply stores thrive again! I have the experience and determination to build PBS into a strong brand for education.”

Currently there are hundreds of SKUs in the line, primarily for kids ages 3 through 9. They include floor puzzles, Match-n-Learn puzzle games, workbooks, flash cards, wipe-clean books, music CDs, jumbo workbooks, Spanish/English books, and other resources. Teachers and parents like the books’ “permission to reproduce the pages,” that lets them easily print out practice sheets for students.

The music component helps the books hit the high notes. “Over the past 29 years, Twin Sisters has become famous for using music to help kids build skills,” says Liz. “Their music continues to impact learning, and is a focal point of these new products. Many of our workbooks come with free music downloads that complement the concept of each book, and each floor puzzle comes with a CD to reinforce its theme. I really like the Spanish/English readers – they’re very effective for young learners who can listen to the correct pronunciations as they follow along in the book.”

PBS Publishing is based in Perrysburg, Ohio; its products are produced in the U.S. and overseas. The company uses a variety of talented artists and graphic designers to create illustrations that are fresh, eye-catching and unique.

When I asked Liz for ideas on selling PBS products in-store, she listed these three recommendations.

1. “Designate a table or a special space for children to put our matching games and puzzles together.”

2. “Put a floor puzzle together and display it in your puzzle aisle.”

3. “Play the music. You have our permission. When shoppers hear the quality, they’ll want to buy it.”

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