‘Tell me all the books’

I am typically a newsletter editor’s nightmare — waiting until the last minute to turn in my article. There is a reason for that. Invariably, close to deadline something will happen which crystalizes for me what I want to say. So it is with this issue.

Jennie Fitzkee, blogger extraordinaire and a frequent contributor to this newsletter (see her wonderful article about visiting E.B. White’s farm in this issue) recently sent two posts which dealt with book selection and the “best words from a child.”

The former touched on the most frequently asked question we receive from our volunteers, “What book is best?” To ask me (or any reader!) that question is almost like asking a parent to pick a favorite child — can’t be done! Nevertheless, we know it is an important question that needs to be addressed and this issue is chock full of suggestions from our conference attendees. (In Jennie’s own classroom the early favorite this year is Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny.)  You can also find links to the growing list of favorite titles submitted by Read Aloud volunteers over the years at readaloudwestvirginia.org/book-lists-and-reviews/.

The other post referenced a kindergarten student who, after observing the impressive display of books in Jennie’s room, said, “Jennie, tell me all the books.”

That made me think of our volunteers beginning another school year of “telling” (aka reading) so many books to children and introducing them to new words, new worlds and new authors. Those thoughts led in turn to an article I read this week about one of my very special heroes, Fred Rogers. As you probably know this is the 50th anniversary of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” and he has been the subject of many articles and honors, as well as a commemorative stamp and several documentaries.

That documentary seemed to make everyone leaving the theatre walk a little straighter and smile a little brighter. One of the most touching moments was when those remembering Mr. Rogers were asked to do something he had asked numerous audiences from Congressional committees to college graduates to do. He called it an “invisible gift” as he asked them to take one silent moment to “think about those who have helped you become who you are today.”

It made me think of those who are serving as that person for a child or children in our state now, guiding the next generation. When you read to a child as a volunteer, parent, grandparent, guardian or friend you are adding to who that child will become.

Those of you who support our organization and enable us to offer our programs are also fulfilling that role. You will read about some who are doing that (conferees; Dan Foster). Others may remain anonymous, but it does not diminish the incredibly important role they play. As we start the new school year, know that when you introduce a child to the pleasure of reading you are providing an incredibly important gift.

Also know we are always looking for additional volunteers to join us in our efforts.

— Mary Kay Bond, Executive Director, Read Aloud West Virginia

Lessons from the research

Here’s what data and experience tell us about closing the word gap and helping West Virginia students to succeed, says Christy Schwartz, of the West Virginia Department of Education’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading:

Keep reading aloud to children from birth to adolescence, and keep educating families about the need to do it. Reading aloud does more for vocabulary development than talking with them, which is also good.

Encourage teachers to read to students daily.

“If children are responding well to a book you’re reading, encourage them to find another in the series, in that genre or by the same author that the teacher might read with them,” she said.

Continue reading “Lessons from the research”

Turn summer slide into a springboard for family reading and bonding; key element? YOU!

By Nikki Moses

Summer slide, summer setback, dumber in the summer. Ask any educator, and you will find that a loss of reading skills among students can be as much a part of summer as baseball and ice cream cones; but, it doesn’t have to be!

Many children lose more than two months of reading achievement over the summer, according to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Some children do not.

Summer can be a time for reading adventures, trying new genres, family read-a-thons, camp outs with flashlights for reading, reading under the old apple tree, trips to the library followed by stops for ice cream…and reading skills can be maintained or increased.

What (or who) is the catalyst? YOU!

Take advantage of the summer break. Skills and drills, necessary to the educational process, can be left at school. Have fun. Be creative. Bond. Pick up a book that you have been meaning to read!

Snuggle and Read Expands Across WV

By Lesley McCullough McCallister

Last summer at Read Aloud West Virginia’s annual conference, county board members and coordinators networked and shared best practices regarding ways to introduce children to the love of reading. A direct result of those collaborative conversations: Snuggle and Read events are expanding throughout the state. In these sessions, young children, along with their parents, are encouraged to snuggle up under a cozy blanket and enjoy a new book together.

The simple idea to encourage the love of reading with great books and comfy blankets has spread like wildfire in recent months as Snuggle and Read events were held in Cabell, Jackson, Mercer, Nicholas, Pocahontas and Tucker counties this spring.

Jackson County alone has held eight such events, one at each of the seven elementary schools in the county and the public library, reaching more than 200 students since March.

“Statistics show that less than twenty percent of parents are reading to their children,” said Cheryl Miller, retired Ripley Elementary kindergarten teacher and Snuggle and Read coordinator for Read Aloud of Jackson County. “This is alarming, so we were looking for new ways to promote and encourage literacy within the family.”

Miller noted parents often ask teachers, “What can I do to help my child?” Truly, one of the simplest things parents can do is read to them. Snuggle and Read events empower parents by modeling techniques that make reading together a fun experience for both parent and child.

Miller added, “We knew we were on to something because at the end of each event, someone always asked when the next Snuggle and Read event would be held.”

At a Snuggle and Read event that coincided with Valentine’s Day in Cabell County, volunteers from Community of Grace United Methodist Church and Girls Scouts Troop #1174 read to the students at Highlawn Elementary in Huntington and distributed 300 books and blankets for students to take home and share with their families.

At the end of February, Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School hosted a Snuggle and Read Family Night, where the parents and children made no-sew blankets to be used during their snuggly family reading time and picked out a book to take home.

Read Aloud West Virginia offers the Snuggle and Read program with the generous support of private and public partners in the local county chapters. Toyota Motor Manufacturing of West Virginia, Constellium, Pocahontas County Schools, and the state Title One program, are among the groups who have contributed funds, books and/or materials to make these events possible.

Lesley McCallister is a Read Aloud supporter, volunteer and newsletter contributor and a freelance journalist.

Photos (l-r): A Nicholas County family snuggles and reads about math; a Jackson County S&R workshop with Cheryl Miller (l); and T.C. Clemmons, a tecaher at Highland Elementary in Cabell County, reads a donated book with a student (photo courtesy of Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch).