Friday, February 10, 2012

Share magical stories with a new generation

The small school of my childhood harbored enchanted treasures: a few bookcases in each classroom constituted the only free lending libraries in town.  
In third grade, You Were There with Clara Barton changed reading from agony to ecstasy for me. The drama of a woman nursing wounded soldiers through the horrors of the Civil War captured my eight-year-old imagination.
Union soldiers respected Barton, who battled bureaucracy and scant supplies to succor their wounded.  The story below is from the website
Coming to a stream where the water was too deep for wading, Clara decided to wait for her wagons and cross the torrent on a cart. An infantry captain halted his men in mid-stream and shouted, ‘Now boys, there stands Clara Barton. I want every one of you to kneel on your right knee and let Miss Barton cross this stream on your left knee.’ Thus, Clara crossed the stream without getting her feet wet.”
Initiated by Clara’s story, I was off and reading.  As a 12-year-old, I discovered Tolkien, and over the years, other authors have pulled me in.
My sister, Shanan, remembers another book from Teton Elementary School—ChiChi’s Magic, about a clever monkey.   She couldn’t read it, but she loved hearing our sister read it. 
We’ve talked about the power of drawing maps and using sensory images to capture memories—Carolyn Hawkins re-drew her map to include the Mennonite Church on Nampa’s north side, and Mickie Rennie remembers “the smell of Dad’s shaving soap.”
Consider also sharing your past with the rising generation by imparting the magic of books you’ve loved. Nowadays, we tell kids, “Read, and we’ll give you stickers, and pizza, and baseball caps.”   Fine—but if they get sucked into a story, they won’t need rewards. 
Anthony Doerr, Idaho’s Writer in Residence, says: “All it takes is one. One book that reaches inside and shifts things around a bit, expands your understanding of who you are, and opens up that little conduit of magic. Once you find it, once you’ve felt that tidal pull, that danger, you’ll be a reader for the rest of your life.”
Just like with fishing, the hard part is hooking the kids in the first place.
That’s where we—yes, those of us READING right now—come in.  We should teach by example—letting kids see us read and hear us talk about what we read—and by precept.  We should read out loud to them.
Every school in Treasure Valley appreciates adult volunteers who read to children. Sign up at the school nearest you to change young lives.
Need bait? For examples of “magic books” go to
Some years ago, Shanan was reading to elementary students who said, “I love that story! I wish I could read.” Shanan told them, “I have dyslexia, and when I was your age, I couldn’t read.  When my mom read Old Yeller and Savage Sam to me, it made me want to learn—so keep working!”  She could’ve said, “Somewhere, a priceless book is waiting for you. Don’t give up ‘til you find it.” 

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