Dawn Little is our WRADvocate in Maryland. She is a mother of two and the founder of Links to Literacy, a literacy consulting company. After eight years home with her children, she is back in the classroom this year. She is excited to work with students again, and is a reading focus teacher at an elementary school.
1. Can you share some of your earliest memories of reading and how they impacted you?
The characters in Judy Blume’s books were so realistic. In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I saw myself in Peter, and my little brother in Fudge (and boy was he!). I, the responsible older sibling, often got in trouble for my younger sibling’s antics. In Are you There God? It’s Me Margaret, I learned about the female rite of passage into womanhood. Through Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, I learned how to love myself for who I was. And Blubber taught me how to be a good friend . . . even if it meant going against the crowd.
To this day, the lessons I learned from these books stick with me. I’m still the responsible older sibling, I love me for me, and I tend not to follow the crowd. While I’m sure my parents deserve most of the credit for the adult I have turned out to be, I think that my childhood books can share some of that credit, too. The books I turned to again and again helped shape the adult I am today. I’m sure of it. I can’t wait to share these same books with my children. Being able to turn to books that helped me through my childhood, as I am raising my own kids, somehow seems comforting.
2. How has what you've read influenced you professionally?
I have read many books that have shaped the educator I have become today. The most influential in my pedagogy has been Strategies that Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement by Anne Goudvis and 6+1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide Grades 3 and Up by Ruth Culham. Reading these books took my literacy instruction in a new direction. They helped guide my thinking and my planning. However, the most influential in general has been Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. I'm currently reading this book and it's just phenomenal in theory. Dweck expertly describes two mindsets: fixed and growth. Understanding that people fall into these two categories helps me in my role of coaching teachers.
3. Do you have a memory of someone reading aloud to you that changed you in some way? How did that change you?
I remember my older cousins reading to me every Sunday after church when I was a young child. I always wanted to hear Mickey Mouse and the Magic Grinder. One day, I began to read the book on my own. Everyone was so surprised. But, that is the power of reading aloud. After hearing that story week in and week out, I was mesmerized by the words and pictures and wanted to take part. My cousins gave me the book as a reminder. I still own it today and read it with my own children.
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?
Reading aloud and surrounding our children with words and books are most essential to developing lifelong readers. In order to enjoy something, we must immerse ourselves in it. Nurturing children to become lifelong readers is no different. We must encourage a love of language in children from the time they are born. Talking, singing, and reading are just a few ways we can encourage a love of reading at a young age. As children become school age, teachers can nurture children to become lifelong readers in several ways (1) Being readers themselves (2) Knowing current children's literature (3) Knowing their students' interests.
To learn more about Dawn, follow her on Twitter on @@linkstoliteracy and on her website, www.literacytoolbox.com