By Rachel M. Anderson, Freelance Writer
(Little Canada, Minn.) – There are few things in life that give retired teacher Emrys Current of Little Canada, Minn., as much satisfaction as watching a child’s eyes light up as they get interested in a book.
“It is just so wonderful to see the excitement on their faces as they begin to start making connections between pictures and words, and then begin reading on their own,” says Current, who enjoyed a 30 year career in the classroom. She retired from teaching in 2002 so she could spend more time with her young grandkids.
When the children, who are now between the ages of 8- and- 12, were little, they were read to all the time by both their parents and grandparents. Today, they are all voracious readers who love books, and Current is proud of the fact that they are all doing well in school. But unfortunately, not every child has the opportunities Current’s grandkids did.
According to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics and other federal organizations, children who are read to at least three times per week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading as children who are read to less. Yet only 50 percent of parents are reported to actually read to their children.
A project Current recently completed with the assistance of her grandkids may just be part of the solution. Beaver’s Pond Press of Edina, Minn., has published Looking for Lucy, a story about a black cat that runs and hides every time the main character’s grandkids come over to play. The story is told in simple sentences that are easy for early readers to observe and memorize. Each page is accompanied by colorful illustrations intended to engage the reader.
“I think especially in the early years the pictures are critical. Children are drawn to the color and configuration and characters through the pictures. It’s easier for them, and if you have something right there that piques their interest, that invites them to relate to the pictures, and then the words come.”
Shortly after Looking for Lucy was released, Current attended a monthly breakfast for Brooklyn Center School District retirees, and word got back to the Superintendent about her book. “One of the retirees told me Emrys Current has a new book out called Looking for Lucy and Leo Verrett, an art teacher who retired from our District had done the illustrations. I wanted to learn more about her book, so later that day I looked her up,” said Keith Lester, Brooklyn Center Superintendent of Schools.
Lester and Current met in person that same afternoon, and he decided on the spot to purchase 100 copies of Looking for Lucy for use in the early reading program at the District’s preschool. “What I like about this book is the relevance to a child’s life. A lot of people have pets so the kids can relate to the story. Not only that, but there’s a personal connection to our school district,” he said.
Lester is not sure exactly how the book will be used during the 2010-2011 school year, but is anticipating having Current come into the classroom several times during the upcoming school year to lead story times. There has also been talk about making sure each preschooler gets a personalized, autographed copy to take home.
“My hope is that we get more books in the hands of kids and families and that they are actually reading them, and when you find something that grabs them, you’ll get them,” he said. “I think this will grab them.”
Dianne Grabowski, a grandmother of four from Champlain, Minn., agrees. “The book is simple and easy to read, and the illustrations are bold and colorful with a lot of detail to keep kids engaged. My 2-year-old grandson lights up when he finds Lucy hidden in the illustrations. It’s a book we read with him over and over again,” she said.
Looking for Lucy is a Beaver’s Pond Press book. It retails for $15.95 and is available for purchase at www.LookingforLucyBook.com and on the Beaver’s Pond Press website: www.BeaversPondBooks. Looking for Lucy can also be found at Barnes and Noble and Borders Bookstores, and at Amazon.com
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SIDEBAR – Five Easy Ways to Get Kids Interested in Reading
1. Set a good example. If your kids see you reading the newspaper, magazines and books, they will want to read too.
2. Build reading time into your daily routine. It could be at bathtime, bedtime, after lunch, whenever. Just choose a time and stick with it.
3. Create a dedicated book nook or reading corner somewhere in your home. Have plenty of books available to the child on shelves at their level.
4. Enroll your child in a book-of-the-month club. They will come to get excited about the arrival of their new book.
5. Visit the library and bookstore often, not only to browse and find interesting books to read, but to take advantage of story times that are offered on a regularly scheduled basis
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