Early last winter, I discovered that one of my author friends regularly metamorphoses into “Blossom the Butterfly” to share her love of reading with pre-school and elementary school children. I asked Pamela to share her story. Opportunities abound for all of us! ~ Bette A. Stevens
CHILDHOOD LITERACY: Sharing the love of reading
Guest post by author Pamela Beckford
How did I get so involved in childhood literacy? I’ve asked myself that question dozens of times. I’m not a teacher, nor did I ever have any aspirations of being a teacher. I’m not a librarian, nor did I ever have any desire to be a librarian. But I am an avid reader myself and I have seen how much reading means to me personally.
I have the world’s best job as CEO of a local United Way. We have a goal of making sure that 90% of all children in our county are ready for kindergarten by 2020. I really didn’t think that was an unattainable goal. In fact, I thought we were probably pretty close to that number already. But, as it turns out, we have our work cut out for us.
One of the reasons is that parents can’t keep up with the changes in our education system. I don’t know how many times I have heard parents say “but that isn’t the way it was when I was in school.” And keep in mind, that these are the youngest parents too. Kindergarten is not what it was even five years ago, let alone what it was like 20 years ago.
I have read study after study about early literacy. They all show the value of reading to children as early as birth (some say before birth). Children need to see parents reading; they need to feel a connection with their parents and their voice. Picture books are one of my favorite genre. I love the rich cadence of many of the books, as well as the beautiful illustrations. There is no doubt in my mind of the importance of talking to and reading to your children.
As part of our Early Childhood Initiative, we developed a new website to serve as a resource for parents. I know that life happens. We get busy with the day-to-day things, work, maintaining a house, etc. Sometimes we just need to be reminded to spend a few minutes reading to your child and why it is important. We always think we can do that tomorrow, but tomorrow never seems to come. The website (90by20.com or childrenreadytolearn.com) is a work in progress and will be continually updated and changed.
One of the other important things we have done is create a reading mascot—her name is Blossom the Book Butterfly. Blossom (me) reads for children every chance she gets; she participates in activities in the schools and child care program; she even had a book written about her that will be distributed to all the new mothers in the county. But Blossom isn’t the only one who reads to children—ALL adults should find a way of volunteering their time with their children/grandchildren/schools/preschools, etc. It only takes a few minutes to read a book to a child and yet its impact is life long.
One of the things I am most excited about though is having Blossom read Indie-authored children books on YouTube videos. This has been a project that has taken much more time than I thought it would but I think it will be a great resource for children and parents. Plus it will promote books from indie authors. I haven’t pursued traditionally published books for this because of the difficulty of getting the video rights, but indie authors have been eager to have their books showcased. Watch for the section on the website in the next couple of months—and if you are a children’s author and would like to allow me to use your books, please contact me.
There are so many other aspects of what we are doing to encourage early literacy—you can see most of them if you look through the website.
I fear I may have gone on too long but this is one of my favorite subjects and I could talk about it all day. Thank you for the opportunity to share our efforts in early childhood literacy.