Share a story

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 16, 2004

&uot;Storysharing provides children with a positive early experience with books. It dramatically shows that books provide a way to talk to each other, to share and to explore our needs and feelings.&uot;

Nancy Gaj

Founder and President

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Motheread (c), Inc.

Last fall it happened. I became &uot;Mom.&uot;

Not &uot;Mommy.&uot;

&uot;Mom.&uot; My daughter determined that &uot;Mommy&uot; was much too babyish and since she was a &uot;big girl&uot; in first grade, well, this was only appropriate. She explained it to me when I- yes, I had to – asked. The first time I realized what I’d been called, I turned my head to hide the tears. Another milestone.

Mom…She’s only seven and already I’m looking back on the good old days.

November 1, 2004 was National Family Literacy Day. This day is set apart annually to bring a new awareness of the importance of reading to our lives and to the development of your child as a lifelong learner. Parents are their child’s first and most influential teachers.

Reading aloud to your children, and letting them see you reading, are two of the best ways to help them on the road to literacy. Storysharing is another useful strategy.

Storysharing helps children connect to the stories through discussion, creative games, artwork, and dramatization.

Mastery is a developmental need for young children, and storysharing is a wonderful tool that encourages mastery. Remind yourself of this when they want to hear the same story for the 100th time. As I travel down memory lane, I must admit, when she was very young, I used to skip pages sometimes when reading my daughter her bedtime story. But I’ve grown. Besides, she started figuring it out! And sometimes on that 110th time, there came these luminous moments of pure delight.

After she progressed from wanting to eat the pages, or hear the wonderful ripping sound she could make when she tore them

(The reason the beauty of board books became a reality to me), my, then, two year old daughter loved the rhyming and repetition in the story of Madeline. One day during what felt like the millionth reading of the words, &uot;To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just said-&uot; She chimed in with, &uot;Pooh! Pooh!&uot;

I cannot even begin to express how thrilled I was. Okay, maybe I can express how thrilled I was. On my birthday that week, my present to myself was to take the day off and take my own little &uot;Madeline&uot; to the zoo. Our mission was to find a tiger-A real one- so she could say those powerful words.

Our tiger was sleeping in the shade, barely visible, but she was so excited. She was powerful. She marched her little frame up to the fence and with all her two-year old authority, shouted to the tiger &uot;Pooh! Pooh!&uot;

When she was three, we also had a great time with Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham… &uot;That Sam I am, That Sam I am…&uot; She uttered those words out of the blue one morning as we were making her bed.

Well, after re-reading the story every night that week, sometimes more than once, and determining every possible place we might find green eggs and ham, we planned for our own special green eggs and ham breakfast for the following Saturday morning. We got up early to go buy the ingredients. She cracked the eggshells with very little assistance. She put in the food coloring and it landed mostly in the bowl. She stirred them up. We were having so much fun until, well, until she expected me to eat them. I thought I would. I thought I could…but something about teal green scrambled eggs just didn’t work for me. .. Still bringing the story to life was fun, and she says the green eggs tasted quite good.

That was a special time, but usually, our storysharing experiences are very simple. Sometimes we just &uot;read&uot; the pictures or make up our own stories. Lately, we’ve been writing out the stories of our weekend or vacation adventures and making up songs, drawing pictures or writing poems to go along with them. These are just a few storysharing strategies. Wonderful programs like United Way’s &uot;Raising a Reader&uot; and the Virginia Humanities Commission sponsored Motheread/Fatheread training are among excellent programs in this area that provide many others. The important thing is to encourage those early pre-literacy skills that engender a love for reading for later school and life success.

If you know someone with a child between 5 and 8 years old who needs to learn to speak English better or who lacks a high school diploma, Suffolk Public Schools Even Start may be the first step on their road to family literacy success. Applications are available now. For more information, contact Darlene Wiggins Dockery at 925-5651.

Let this month renew your commitment to family and family literacy.

Darlene Wiggins Dockery is director of the Even Start program in Suffolk Public Schools and an occasional News-Herald columnist.