I spent over thirty years teaching children to read, and as much as schools may have changed in that time, one thing has not–the importance of reading aloud to children. My career included twelve years as Reading Specialist, as well as years teaching kindergarten, first and third grades. I also worked in Special Education classrooms and at a private reading clinic. Now I volunteer in my granddaughter’s kindergarten class. Again and again I have witnessed the impact of reading aloud–or sadly, the lack of it–on children. Even at so-called “good” schools, in middle class neighborhoods. Children who have been read to early and often simply come to school more ready and eager to learn. Period.
Over the years I wrote many columns for the Nevada Appeal about literacy, learning, and how to raise readers. In this column from a few years ago I pose my belief in the form of a fable about two little girls, from the same neighborhood and similar family situations. You can use your own critical thinking skills to deduce the moral of the story after reading A tale of two Saras.
Throughout my career, I often quoted Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. He is the wise read aloud guru. Even if you don’t believe me, you should believe him. His book makes an excellent gift at the next baby shower you attend. Just sayin’.
“There is love in holding,” he’d said. “And there is love in letting go.”
The story follows a widow’s first year after her beloved husband’s death. Elizabeth Berg always writes women’s voices clearly and accurately. You can hear them. You know them. She’s also excellent with likeable characters, details and descriptions. But this book just didn’t provide enough tension or conflict to make it a really good story. No really tough choices, no high stakes. Even for a Berg fan, this one just fell a little flat.
“You’ll know who you are when you start losing things.”
“It took a bit of ill-humor to make yourself up out of nothing.”
Wow. Just finished this book this morning. Mary Coin is one tough mother. She did what she had to do to feed and care for six children as a migrant farm worker during the Great Depression. What happens to her, the photographer who took her picture and the present-day historian who is inexplicably drawn to their stories is told in alternating points of view. Silver weaves a story of loss, survival, sacrifice, strength and determination. Highly recommend.
Mary Coin at amazon
Whew! Just finished this giant of a book this morning on the elliptical. It’s the first in the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. It does an excellent job of tracing the roots of present day issues to what was going on one hundred years ago, before, during and just after WWI. The lives of members of five families are tangled and woven throughout the book and across the world.
There are coal mines, manor houses, spies, battlefields, the highest tiers of government, the poorest neighborhoods and yes, romance. Lots of intrigue and backroom dealing.
Follett also describes the roots of feminism and the labor movement in Great Britain. During the war, women took over men’s jobs but were paid less for the same work. Sound familiar? When the vote was finally granted to women, it was only to women over thirty who were householders, the most conservative women.
I feel like I know you already. We’ve had coffee together, read the same books, and grieved the loss of a loved one. Or an election. We’ve gained and lost weight. We’ve celebrated and commiserated. We’ve laughed over our struggles with aging. We’ve waxed nostalgic. We’ve made plans for the future. We’ve gotten a little drunk. Together.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about us.
- We believe in the inherent value and potential of every human being.
- We believe in the freedom of choice in all personal matters, including whether and when to have a baby or whom to marry. We married for love and believe others should be allowed to do so.
- We believe that knowledge is power and that knowing the facts helps us make better decisions for ourselves and our world.
- We believe in the freedom of (and from) religion as long as others believe in ours.
- We believe that most people are good and trying the best they can. Everyone is fighting a battle of some kind, some are just more visible.
- We recycle.
- We believe in spreading kindness, even if we get a little judge-y in our heads sometimes.
- We believe trolls live under bridges and should stay there. We know life is short and that bullies and blowhards are simply not worth our time.
Please consider this an invitation as well as a note of gratitude. Stop by when you can. No need to call first. The coffee’s always hot. I’ll save you a seat by the window.