For me, the essential aspect of building literacy and being literate is the storytelling.
My friend Debbie Navarro, from the Los Angeles chapter for ReachOutandRead.org, will share with you that the way a child physically pinches the pages of the book is a part of identifying literacy.
And my other friend Sharon Washington, Executive Director of the National Writing Project, will tell you that literacy is often mistakenly limited to just reading skills.
The truth is: it’s all of the above.
Reading aloud is storytelling and storytelling inspires us — even adults; and when we’re inspired we take action and seek expression. We write or sing or build or pick up the phone and call someone or learn more or teach others.
To be literate is really to be empowered by that storytelling experience and be the ‘you’ that is meant to be.
Storytelling to a child is like water to a Chia pet. As it turns out, kids are like those little Chia pets, just add water – and food and socks and refrigerator magnets and popsicles in the summer and hot cocoa in the winter and POOF, you’ll have yourself a container bursting full of rich, gooey kid.
For the family member who doesn’t actually give birth (myself included), there’s a bit of a learning curve. The trigger point for me was during a visit when I heard my two year old niece, Abby, using big girls words. It suddenly hit me – I want a front row seat! But she was in Chicago, nearly 2000 miles away. And another niece was on the way!
Well, I was running my own video production company at the time, so the idea of combining video media with something for kids was making its way to the frontal lobe region of my brain and, eureka! – video bedtime stories appeared. I combined my love for my nieces and my love for books to create BeThereBedtimeStories.com.
In our culture, we tend to think of literacy as a means to read road signs and text books and dinner menus. As an auntie and an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that it can be so much more. Literacy is liberation.
I could rattle off a dozen different statistics about illiteracy that would shock you; but the real shocker is the simplicity of the antidote. Just read everyday. And it’s not even a chore, just let the experience of storytelling do the work. Simply water the Chia pet!
Every time I read a story to my nieces Abby and Cassie, I can’t wait to hear about their reaction. Read Meet the Planets by John McGranaghan and Laurie Allen Klein and you might get an astronaut that redirects the entire space program someday; read Rattlesnake Jam by Margot Finke and Kevin Collier and you might get a food network star; read about A Flea named T by CJ Connolly and Lisa Adams, and you’ll get, well, I’m not sure what you’ll get – you’ll have to wait and see!
The point is, would you ever go 24 hours without feeding a child food? It’s the same for literacy! For a few moments each day, storytellers are superheroes, with the power to transport a child to another world so they can forge for the stuff that fuels their ‘soul cells’. Ensure a child never goes 24 hours without a story and you’ll ensure an empowered society.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” ~ Greek Proverb
So join the celebration nationwide today and ‘Read Across America’ in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
Then continue reading all month long, in honor of the inaugural launch of Read Across California in March. California Assembly Member Julia Brownley was inspired by a storyteller at some point in her life, which brought her to take legislative action for the health and well being of Chia pets across our state – metaphorically speaking!
And, finally, celebrate literacy for the freedom that it represents as a human right to be spread worldwide.
Enjoy storytelling for FREE this weekend, on my website: BeThereBedtimeStories.com.
I’ll even make it easy for you to choose a book: When Mama Reads to Me, by Judy Rubin and Milla Zeltzer is certain to spark the imagination of your child for the perfect literacy experience.