Alyson Beecher is our WRADvocate from Pasadena, CA. She is an educator, writing mentor, book geek, and blogger. During the day, she works with elementary students. Her passion is getting her students excited about books, reading, and writing. She believes that it is critical to partner with teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, booksellers, and publishers to support efforts to connect children and teens to books. With that in mind, she has also co-founded the grassroots organization Bridge to Books.
1. Can you share some of your earliest memories of reading and how they impacted you?
It was in 3rd grade that I began to see myself as a reader. I started reading The Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and I never stopped reading books after that. I was so excited that I could read a book by myself and I loved that every book I read allowed me to meet new “friends” and visit new places.
2. What advice would you give to teachers, parents and caregivers who want to reach their struggling readers?
I have noticed that some children catch on to the pattern of sounds and reading faster than other children. As they have success with reading, they read more which reinforces their ability to read providing for more success and often times positive reinforcement from the adults in their lives. Children who are slower with unlocking that pattern find reading to be hard and often not very enjoyable. Even one or two adults who spend time reading daily with the child, building a connection between reading and enjoyment will help a child push through, find success, and experience of benefits of being a reader.
3. What book do you think young people should not miss?
Gosh this is a hard one. I don’t think I believe there is any single book that every child should read. There are dozens of wonderful books out there, but what might be the perfect book for one child may not be the book for another child. I do think that there is a special book out there that will touch each child in a unique way. When I read a book, I often find myself thinking about a particular student who would love it. Recently, I read Hound Dog True by Linda Urban and thought of several girls that needed to meet Mattie Breen (the main character). When I read Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm, I immediately gave a copy to another student who would fully appreciate May Amelia. Upon finishing A Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, I handed it to one of my teachers for her son. I hope that every book I read ends up with the child who will need it.
4. What do you think is most essential for teachers, parents and caregivers to do in order to nurture a child to become a lifelong reader?
Keep searching for that one special book that will transform the children in your life into life-long readers. So many children claim they don't like to read or that reading is boring; however, for many it is that they haven't found reading material that they love. Once they find it either in the format of a novel, or non-fiction, or a trivia book, they search out another and another until they are hooked. And along with this, do not criticize their choice of books. Just because as an adult, I might be partial to one type of story doesn't mean every child I know is interested in the same thing. If children believe that the adults in their lives are critical of the books that they love, they may resist reading to avoid those criticisms.
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 had taken for granted the power of the read aloud with students until the past few years when I began to realize that more than just the benefit of hearing a book read aloud there was also the power of making a relational connection. Sharing a book together gives students and teachers common points of reference from which they can talk and build on. By reading aloud to children, I can also share my excitement about books that I have discovered. When I talk with children about books, it gives me a level of trust and permission to ask them about what they are reading and to make suggestions. As I watch their reactions, to books I have read aloud, I can also select just the right books for each of them. And when you hand a book to a child that you have specially selected with him or her in mind, watch out, a positive transformation happens every time.
To learn more about Alyson, follow her on Twitter @alybee930
And check out her websites below: