From Katherine Hauth, on summer reading, books, and life.
My children’s lit. teacher had required each student to read aloud to children at least once a week during our course. If it weren’t for that experience, I likely wouldn’t have realized the value of “just reading” to children and the summer reading group never would have happened.
That class always started with her asking each student to share a first or strongest memory of being read to. Some years after my class, one student cited a summer neighborhood reading group as her strongest memory. When the teacher asked where the student lived, she learned it was my group. That girl had been among the first five participants. A few years later her son joined the group when he visited his grandmother, my neighbor.
That young boy, now 6′ 3″, stopped by my house to visit this last vacation. I hadn’t seen him since they moved to California about eight years ago. Such visits, as well as invitations to graduations and weddings, suggest that something personal and valuable happens when people share stories and time.
Reading group ended (or did it?) when there were no longer young children on my block. It was then that a former neighbor contacted me about starting a reading group. This was the mother of a girl who’d had problems reading, the catalyst for my reading to children. They’d recently moved to a new neighborhood with lots of children and the daughter mentioned how much she’d enjoyed our neighborhood reading group. The mother knew that a reading group could make a difference in a child’s life. Her own daughter was then working on her Master’s degree in a health science field.
We talked about many things, including making good friends with children’s librarians who are wonderful resources for the books children love and need. I emphasized reading each book aloud before reading to a child. Some good silent reads don’t translate well to read-alouds. It’s also good to know the story and where to place emphasis, slow down or speed up effectively the first time a child hears it.
What had started with a conversation between neighbors, plus a seed planted by a teacher, could continue growing, and planting new seeds.