A few lessons in reading

Published 9:09 pm Monday, December 8, 2014

A reading program by Old Dominion University students at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School last week was a valuable educational experience for young and old.

Seven students from ODU’s chapter of the Student Virginia Education Association visited the Title I school in downtown Suffolk. They not only read books, but they also led first-graders in craft activities related to the stories the books contained.

What were the stories about? There were three about a pig named Poppleton, according to a story by my newsroom colleague Tracy Agnew.

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The university student who read the book by Cynthia Rylant, Megan Deloatch, explained how our title character measured icicles and rode in a sleigh.

Deloatch didn’t just flip through the pages absentmindedly, but carefully showed the pictures to students, explained new words and frequently stopped to ask the children for their thoughts on what would happen next.

The craft activities afterward included fashioning icicle ornaments from pipe cleaners, beads and yarn.

Getting out of the lecture hall and into the classroom to read to young children was a great experience for the ODU students, who — who knows? — may return to Elephant’s Fork one day on a more permanent basis.

From my own experiences of reading to my 16-month-old daughter, I know how important practice can be. Practice and patience.

Starting down the road to reading — admittedly, probably a little early for her to get a whole lot out of it — Charlotte’s challenge was to stop tearing pages out of the books.

That lesson probably still hasn’t been successfully learned. We just switched to more durable board books, and she continues to swipe at them occasionally.

Learning which books to avoid was an important lesson for me. I haven’t determined why, but “Diary of Wombat” invariably results in tears. Dr. Seuss books can be read to the end only on the very rare occasion.

“Caps for Sale” she started out despising, but now she loves it. I don’t know why, because its format doesn’t seem drastically different than the accompanying volumes “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and “If You Take a Mouse to School,” both of which Charlotte has always loved.

Voice inflection was another important lesson for me. I’ve given up changing the modulation, intonation and pitch of my voice for different characters and situations they’re in.

I’ve learned that if I just keep it a steady, low drone, Charlotte falls asleep pretty quickly.