Vol. 8, No. 27
July 6-12, 2000
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Front Lines of Literacy
Where Reading Starts … It Doesn’t End

By Lori L. Sikorski

An era has ended in our home. After seven years — divided among three children — at Patuxent Elementary School, we said our final good-byes. Emily was not so teary as I, for she knew that, moving on to third grade next door at Appeal Elementary, she could always come back to visit, just as Hollie and Joey have done over the years.

For me it was something deeper. I was leaving behind the place where my children first took independent steps on their long journey of learning. Paul and I had given them their initial push, but here they took off the training wheels.

As we passed out hugs and promises to stay in touch, I felt a bit better. Until we reached the media center, the heart of the school. Here books and reading come alive, and Sally Wolfe and Cissy Langley wear silly costumes that animate the characters of the books they lovingly read. There is not one book out of the thousands on the shelves that they have not read.

Bright displays, cuddly stuffed animals, crafts and gadgets adorn the walls and tops of the bookshelves, stimulating mind and soul. Even Willie Wonka would feel at home here. The Patuxent Elementary media center is a visual playground for the school children, whose ages range from four to eight.

Fondly I recall many wonderful reading lessons learned there. The school children ate green pancakes for St. Patrick’s Day and popcorn for Circus week. Learning about polar bears, jellyfish and dinosaurs, they made handmade crafts that now garnish our refrigerator.

The week of Halloween is as festive as the day itself. Sally and Cissy wore striped socks and mismatched shoes under their cat-in-the-hat hats. But what I recall most is that these two were always smiling, from their faces and from their hearts.

Often I’d detour my travels in the school so that I could pass through the media center. I’d watch with pleasure as Sally read to a class of children gathered at her feet, wide eyed and interested.

These children were learning, they were absorbing and they loved the entire process. When the story had ended and the activity for that book was done, they would scurry to the bookshelves to find a related book. Proudly they would bring it to Cissy, and she would complement the children on their finds as she checked them out at the computer.

In all of my travels to libraries and media centers near and far, I have never seen a more inviting or enchanting place than this. My heart ached for not only what my children were leaving but for my own loss. For it was here that I was privileged to watch the children find that golden key to unlock their minds to reading.

This pleasing place had become a haven for these small children. For some, this was the only library they knew. So Sally Wolfe and Cissy Langley made sure it was an experience they would not soon forget.

As the school doors close for summer recess, children’s minds should remain open to reading. Now is the time to pour a glass of lemonade, find a shady tree to sprawl under and do some leisurely reading.
No matter what your age, try these summer reading tips:

1. Read about something you like or are interested in.

2. Visit your local library and get involved in its summer reading program. Often there are great incentives and prizes awarded, and you have an impressive selection to choose from.

3. Read Bay Weekly and write something for “Not Just for Kids.”

4. Substitute reading for watching television.

5. If you’re a child, read. If you’re a grown up, read to a child. Return to Amelia Bedilia, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle or Dr. Suess. When young children see you reading, it encourages them.

6. Put on a play or skit about a book you have read, or make a shoe box diorama of some part of the book that you loved.

7. Read with a friend. Get two copies and read together.

8. Read poetry. You will be surprised at how soothing it can be. Try your hand at writing some, too.

9. Keep up on current events by reading the newspaper.

10. Keep a journal of your reading. List the books that you have read and why you enjoyed them.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly