From Katherine Hauth, author of What’s For Dinner? Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World, a follow up to my video interview on the summer reading program she began years ago in her neighborhood:
The weekly reading tradition played out on our Reading Rug surrounded with books according to children’s ages. Depending on the number of children, each selected one to three books. I read one book for each child starting with the youngest to the oldest. That way those with the shortest attention spans, who might want to leave early, heard at least one of their books read. Sometimes one of the younger children would cuddle up to me as I read. (This doesn’t happen between a child and an e-book.) I continued reading, from youngest to oldest, as long as a child wanted to be read to. Once I read for only thirty minutes. Another time, for three hours.
(One day the doorbell rang. A boy had forgotten to leave early for a dental appointment. We were near the end of a story so I asked his mother if we could finish. She listened intently as I continued with a voice of a lion and some other beasts. Later, she told me she’d been a foster child. No one had read to her, and she could barely read. My heart hurt, but I was glad I could do for her son what she could not.
Since some neighbors weren’t readers, I established a mini-library that I supplied from the public library. I first checked that the parents were willing to have their children borrow and be responsible for books. No one refused. Over the years, a few books become temporarily misplaced, but only two had to be purchased.
I made an exception to our “no eating” rule after gathering several books about bees and getting real honey from a beekeeper friend. Each year after that, someone would ask, “When are we going to do the honey?” Bee books, eating honey from the comb, and chewing the wax like gum became an annual ritual they looked forward to–even those who spit out the wax.
When a new neighbor or a guest of a neighbor joined us, some were shy and didn’t want a hug. After all, I was a stranger. That inevitably turned to an exchange of hugs by the end of reading…after we had become friends through stories.