I am a literacy coach. It is literally my job to promote reading and writing. I love seeing the way Ale is growing as a young reader and writer, and I try to encourage her to “write.” I rejoice in watching her fine motor skills develop as she, now purposefully, grips her pencils. I bought crayons long before she had the strength to make them show up on paper. She has had notebooks for years that we carry along for busy hands. She has an art box from my dreams overflowing with colors, stickers, and scraps of paper for her to glue.
Unfortunately, in our family, it has become a common question: “Ale, where can you write with that?” She always replies, “Only on paper!” That’s because we’re discovering all the places that we shouldn’t write, and our list grew again today:
1). Walls. Beware of the quiet child with markers. Watch out for sneaky glances as three year old hands hide markers in the folds of her skirt while backing out the room. And finally, if someone tells you to stay as she runs the opposite way, you should follow.
2). Tables. Just because your paper is on the table doesn’t mean you should write on the table…
3). Couches. The couch has its own rule book. Food and drinks aren’t allowed there. Play Doh is also on the list. Shoes aren’t welcome anymore either.
4). Books. This is hard to explain. It IS paper. There are pictures. Some books are for writing. Others aren’t. Most aren’t. So, back. Away. From. The. Book. With. Your. Markers!
5). Babies. Don’t do it. Of all the places you’ve written, this may be the one I least expected. You shouldn’t write on babies…
This is what I came home to this afternoon, with an excited three year old telling me she “painted” the baby.
In Mexico, Spring Break is a nationally mandated vacation for schools–and every year all students in the entire country are out of school the same two weeks. This is our first week of Semana Santa, or Holy Week. For Ale and me, this is the fifth day that we have played Play-Doh, cleaned the kitchen, and picked up toys all before 9 a.m. In between all of those activities, she goes on speed dates with whatever books are lying around.
I am so enjoying my time with this little stinker. She is really coming to life in the language department–although so much of what she says is so unclear. (It is hard work learning two languages at the same time!) I think I am hearing more right now because all she is hearing is English. I can’t wait until this summer when everyone around her will speak English. It will be interesting to see how she grows during that time! Right now she is speaking Spanglish with the best of them! “Mira a mi hand!” she will say.
While I am enjoying her liveliness during our time together, I find myself really short on patience by the end of the day. It is really making me stop and salute all of the single moms and stay-at-home moms out there! Whew! I think I would need to take up exercising or drinking if my whole life consisted of cleaning and repeating myself fifty times a day. On the other hand, I feel like I am missing so much of her growth when I only see her from 3:00 to bedtime. I guess you just bloom where you are planted! Every situation comes with a long list of advantages and disadvantages…
We bought one of those blow-up swimming pools this weekend. Luckily, it is big enough for the three of us. Even luckier, the back patio is walled-in, so our neighbors can’t see us “swimming” in a plastic pool with our daughter. In our defense, it is quite relaxing to just lie there soaking in the sun. It’s like an outside bathtub! (Bathtubs aren’t a popular thing in Mexico, so it has literally been 8 months since I have had a bath instead of a shower.) I told Victor that next time we have to empty the water, I am going to fill it up with hot water and go out to read a book by myself.
In the meantime, I’ve made a point to read my bible each morning as I am drinking my coffee. Today is Day One of Proverbs–starting over is always really nice. I read something new every month! I remember that when I came to Mexico (three years ago!!!!) this is what I was doing. I had started reading a proverb each day several months before I arrived, and there was so much comfort and encouragement in those chapters! Being with Ale renews me with the knowledge that she sees everything I do–and wants to do the same. I want her to see me doing the things that are beneficial, singing the songs that have sweet messages, and praying before bed and meals. A mama’s work is never done…
I started my day off this morning by checking out a stack of books to take across the street to Ale’s daycare. Today, after all, is World Read Aloud Day! I wanted my little girl to get books read to her all day long.
While at school, I began researching reading aloud online. I wanted to find this statistic that I heard from Pam Allyn, Director and Founder of Lit Life, while at a conference last year. She mentioned that students who are read to three times a day are one full year ahead of other students–regardless of socioeconomic status! Alas, I didn’t find that statistic today, but what I did find was equally fascinating.
The benefits of reading aloud are countless! There is, of course, the overwhelmingly popular fun factor. Being read to is fun! And kids who get that are more likely to enjoy reading themselves! Even from birth reading to children has benefits: babies learn to associate reading with love. They hear language structure and new vocabulary when they listen to books. The vocabulary that comes from a picture book is often different than what someone might speak each day. Even young adults love to be read to–and their listening comprehension is beyond that of their independent ability. It isn’t until 8th grade that those two levels become balanced; therefore, the sophisticated language that children listen to causes them to think critically. This, in turn, develops cognitive ability– not to mention, the emotional side of a reader. Whew! If that doesn’t make you want to pick up a book, I don’t know what will!
After a full day at school, I finally was able to read to my own precious punkin before turning in for the night. I picked this up for her special last weekend in Texas. I actually was looking for a character and a well-known title–I was so glad we went this route! The bear is just the perfect to hide behind a pillow until his big reveal!
And this was the perfect ending to a perfect day of celebrating reading aloud… Make someone’s day by reading aloud today. Let’s make everyday a read aloud day!
My heart is breaking. Seriously. I take so much for granted–like this wonderful world of literacy! Reading has been an escape for me since I was a little girl. Writing became my therapy a couple years ago when I felt like the world was crumbling around me.
And now? Literacy is my future! It’s what my job is based on, and I’ve already signed a contract as a literacy coach for the next two years. You could say that I can support my family because I learned to read. That’s the truth.
But still, my heart is breaking.
My custodian just asked me sheepishly, “Miss, what does this say in English. I don’t understand.” He was holding a button that I had made proclaiming March 5th World Read Aloud Day. I didn’t think anything of it, and I explained in broken Spanish the idea behind World Read Aloud Day. It’s a day where you read with a loud voice (the actual translation). Suddenly, a look of near panic crosses his face. “Us too?” he asked? I explained that no, we wouldn’t have everyone reading, but that some schools do celebrate like that. “But, it’s because I can’t read. I had to quit school when I was eleven,” he continued, “when my father died.”
I quickly assured him that I understood how that could happen. My husband too worked his whole childhood and missed out on a lot of school. I can help, I explained. It will be hard. But I know I can help him learn to read.
Wow. I think back to the notes that I’ve written, the cards that we’ve signed, and the text that is literally dripping from my classroom walls. Poems decorate my door, banners fly in the hallway with each writing celebration, and this sweet man who takes care of us everyday just told me his secret.
I know that it is a secret. That expression on his face? I know that expression. I see it daily on the faces of the boys and girls who struggle with reading–Who know that they are struggling.
There are a lot of things I can’t do in this world. But teach someone to read? That’s something I can do. And it all starts with reading aloud. Reading with a loud voice. Be loud. Be proud. Read someone a book tomorrow–even if that someone is just yourself.