Author planting seeds for love of reading

DEL MAR — Asked where fruits and vegetables come from, many children will say the supermarket. Some, in fact, have never seen food growing on plants.

Brad Zink is hoping to change that with his second children’s book, “It Starts with a Seed,” which teaches youngsters about the different growth stages of plants.

The idea came to the San Marcos author when teachers at his son’s school invited him on a field trip to Home Town Farms, which uses technology to create efficient vertical growing systems in urban areas.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Zink said. “I brought my camera to photograph the plants and the kids and the amazing look in their eyes.”

The book provides step-by-step instructions for budding at-home gardeners.

“They don’t need space to grow things,” Zink said. “All they need is a window and a planter box.”

Since publishing “It Starts with a Seed,” Zink has been featured on a local television show and visited more than 60 schools and libraries, where his book readings are followed by planting demonstrations.

“I give them sunflower seeds,” he said. “When they take them home the plants grow and, excuse the pun, the children grow as well. They grow a passion for growing things and for reading. It makes them want to go out and get more books to see what else they can learn.”

Born in Petaluma in Northern California, Zink said he loved to read as a youngster and still has his library of Dr. Seuss books. But becoming a children’s author was not his career path.

He worked as a network engineer for companies such as eBay until his son, Alex, was born six years ago and he opted to become a stay-at-home dad.

“Guys aren’t born with the patience gene,” he said. “This is the hardest job I’ve ever had in my life. Working 50 or 60 hours a week at eBay was a piece of cake. But this is the most rewarding job. It changed my outlook on the power of the mom.”

Zink said he spent a lot of time reading aloud to Alex, quickly going through his library of about 500 children’s books.

“It’s expensive to buy books so I started making flipbooks to challenge and entertain him,” he said.

When Alex started kindergarten at Twin Oaks Elementary School last year, he brought one in for show-and-tell. Zink said a teacher suggested he write children’s books.

Inspired, Zink visited the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park and took pictures of about two dozen animals.

“I joined the use of rhyme with bright, vivid color photographs of amazing exotic animals,” he said. “This approach makes use of fun rhymes and amazing pictures that help to train and entertain at the same time.”

The result was his first book, “Love … a Dove,” which rhymes the names of the animals to “loving” sentimental words “to express to children the fun of reading and the importance of loving all animals,” Zink said.

His latest endeavor is “Love Saves: The Endangered Species,” written by request for the Nsefu Wildlife Conservation Foundation, which seeks to preserve and protect wildlife from poaching.

The book will debut at the San Diego Lemon Zest and Garlic Fest July 18 at San Diego Waterfront Park.

Zink is donating 75 percent of his profits to the Nsefu Wildlife Conservation Foundation.

All his books are available from online sellers such as Amazon.com for $9.99, with $1 from each sale going to Go Gold Global to raise pediatric cancer awareness through education, research for prevention, early detection and less harmful treatments for kids.

Another $1 per book goes to Twin Oaks.

“I’m not trying to make money off the books,” Zink said. “I write them to make money for the schools and organizations.”

Zink will be reading “It Starts with a Seed” and providing a planting demonstration at the Del Mar Library at 10:30 a.m. June 27.

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