Meet Nili Yelin, our WRADvocate in Chicago, Illinois. One of the city's best storytellers, she will be hosting a 10:30 am children's storytime at Psycho Baby in Chicago. She's also raising funds on behalf of LitWorld's cause, raffling off a children's private story event. Read on to learn about Nili!
1. Can you share some of your earliest memories of reading and how they impacted you?
My Dad read to me a lot as a kid. I was born in Israel and moved to New York at 4 years old and learned English through books and listening to Broadway musical albums--I definitely learned that words were my friends at a very early age and I learned a whole new language and culture through books. My dad read every day and I picked up that love of books and learning through seeing him read all the time.
2. Is there a particular book that has changed your life in some way and why?
I love the books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, especially Little Pea. That book is perfection to me. It's funny, clever, quirky, teaches great concepts while playing with the reality of a child's world. This book allowed me to open up and be more playful in my storytelling and I never get tired of reading and performing it. I love sharing this book with a group of children and I get a kick out of their reactions and comments.
3. How has what you've read influenced you professionally?
I became a children's storyteller after reading Esme Codell's book, Educating Esme. I was enthralled by her love of kids and books and used many of her creative ideas to guide me when I first began. We met by accident years ago in a store and are now friends. Her encouragement and positive spirit have been with me every time I perform and I use her as my "muse" to challenge myself and discover new things every time I engage with an audience.
4. Do you have a memory of someone reading aloud to you that changed you in some way? How did that change you?
My Grandfather who came to New York from Russia used to read me old folk tales that he was read as a child when I would visit him on the Lower East Side of New York. He had a thick accent and would sing some of the songs in the stories which I loved. He had such a good time revisiting the stories of his childhood and his joy came through to me and I felt happy as well. I can still hear his voice in my head and he has been gone since 1980. I got the chance to see the little boy inside the old man and feel a connection to my heritage and Jewish background and that has influenced me to this day. Plus he was very funny and I use humor as the foundation for most of my work.
5. Will you share with us some final meditations on the power of the read aloud and of reading in general to the emotional lives of children and for all people?
I am amazed on a daily basis by the observations and truths of children and group interaction. There is an organic and natural pull to a group gathering and listening to a story and the feeling of being totally engaged in the moment. Words and pictures stir the imagination and the power of recognition that we all have similar feelings and experiences create a bond that is stronger than many other experiences. You can explore the whole world and various situations in the safety of a book. The simple act of reading can make you feel part of something bigger than yourself and empower you to soar as high as you want to go and land safely.
To learn more about Nili, visit her website here: