Magical Library: What is your first memory of being read to/reading on your own/ or books in general?
Shirley: My first memory of reading was when I was around 5 years old. I read words on the newspaper pages that were used as wallpaper inside my childhood home. Sometimes, the pictures brought my attention to the words so, of course, I really wasn’t reading yet. When I went to kindergarten, I continued to pretend-read with enthusiasm. Later, I learned letter sounds and began to write words that I would read over and over again. The first book I read independently was, Dick and Jane. By this time, I didn’t notice pictures as much as the words on the page.
ML: When do you feel is the best age to start reading to children and why is it important?
Shirley: I think we should read to children at the moment of conception because children need to hear the sound of Mother’s voice in all situations. Hearing a mother’s voice helps the child determine her mood. Reading seems to calm and soothe the heart if read with intentional enjoyment. Therefore, reading to the child from infancy forward, could help shape his/her disposition in life. A mother’s calmness could be transferred to the listening ear of her child and a love-seed for reading could be planted.
Unfortunately, some situations are not as ideal as my previous comment. Sometimes, children only hear reading done by other people outside of their living space. Usually this is around 3 or 4 years old as they attend daycare or some other child care center. Nevertheless, reading to children at an early age is imperative to develop or increase their interest in reading later in life.
ML: What was your experience of reading to children whether they were your own children or in a group setting?
Shirley: First, being a child that enjoyed looking at books and reading them selectively, I read aloud to myself often. I fell in love with words and sounds after noticing how the librarian read during storytime. I was in 2nd grade. Although I struggled with hearing, I learned how to read with intonation like she did. I believed that if one was speaking or reading, one should speak or read to be understood.
Secondly, When I became a teacher, reading to children was a pleasant activity. I tried to use the influx of voice and intonations that captivated me as a child. I wanted the children to relate to the passage or excerpt I shared with them aloud. I wanted them to be sad whenever the reading had to end for the day. I wanted them to ask for more story time.
Finally, once the children were able to read on their own, I would roam around the classroom to listen to some of them. For a few seconds each, I would listen to hear if they sounded like real readers.
ML: What is a sure fire trick that you found to get your kids engaged or involved in reading time?
Shirley: On the one hand, one sure fire way that I helped motivate children to read was to actually discuss reading as a part of our conversations during the day. I referred to books as resources of knowledge. Many times I would refer to books/movie titles with which they may have been familiar. One quote, from Spiderman, I often used was, “With great power comes great responsibility”. That quote generated a lot of talk about being responsible for one’s own learning.
On the other hand, I would dress up as a character and pretend that I was living the actions of the book I was sharing for read-aloud time. One of my favorite characters to portray was Fancy Nancy. I wore a pink boa, a crown, and a pair of dangling earrings for such episodes.
ML: What is your favorite children's book?
Shirley: My favorite children’s book changed with the times. When I was in grade school, my favorite book was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. When I went off to college, I mainly read for research not for enjoyment. However, once in a while, I would let myself enjoy those childhood titles as I studied that thick, green book filled with early childhood favorites. Before I retired in 2017, my favorite children’s book was My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray. I used to watch my mom dance a lot when I was a little girl. When I brought my son from the hospital, I danced with him often, even until he was a grown man.