Flora Caputo is a working urban mom who shares ideas, views and tips on cooking, recipes, health, books, music, motherhood, geneaology, crafts, gardening and Italian travel. She is also our WRADvocate in Chicago!
To celebrate WRAD, Flora is working with a local bookstore, Open Books Downtown, on a story hour and a bake sale in the store, where she will be donating her special urban domestic diva baked goods.
Read on more to learn about Flora, and how books have impacted her life:
1. Can you share some of your earliest memories of reading and how they impacted you?
This question I think is the most important one in the list for me...especially when I am asked as to why I have agreed to be a WRADvocate and support Litworld.org. Most of my peers would probably answer that their earliest memories would involve their parents or grandparents in some way. My childhood was unique in that my parents were Italian immigrants who came over during the mid to late 60's. They were mentored into the American culture through amazing cousins who had lived here longer. That was lucky for me, because it was these cousins who knew English better, that read to me aloud. My parents were still grappling with the language themselves, so they did not read too me much- if at all. My earliest memory was of my Dad's cousin and wife, reading a Golden Book of Disney's Robin Hood that they brought over as a gift during a visit. I remember distinctly being read to that night by them in my cozy pajamas- a completely new activity in our little house. It was so amazing and comforting...I think I was maybe 4? I felt transported to a world of chivalry and adventure (and I loved the attention I was getting). Afterward, I would flip through the book and look at the pictures and try and remember the story. I was hooked! My parents did their best to read it to me when I begged, and I made sure my cousins would read to me every-time they came over! It also drove my desire to learn to read on my own. But it was through friends, family and teachers reading aloud to me throughout my life, that helped develop my love of reading. It is so important to continue to support teachers and organizations out there who can also inspire children who may not be as fortunate to experience the magic of reading at home.
2. Is there a particular book that has changed your life in some way and why?
Ahh, there are so many. But one in particular sticks out. If you were to go to my grammar school's library, you could look at a little book by Palmer Brown called "The Silver Nutmeg", and look at who consistently checked it out over and over and over again in the 70's, and you would see my name on it! This book involves a great little story about a little girl's magical adventure during a hot summer day in the country. I learned about living simply, about enjoying a summer garden, about always being open to whatever may happen and seeing where it will take you. Anna Lavinia, the main character of this story, is my heroine to this day. I even bought it from our public library so I can own it. I think it inspired me to want a buzzing, overgrown, country garden (which I think I have) and a cat (which I have as well). As for the magical adventure, well isn't every day one?
3. Do you have a memory of someone reading aloud to you that changed you in some way? How did that change you?
Well, I mentioned my father's cousins, but the other big reading moment for me was when I was in 3rd grade. It was my first experience with a chapter book. I think children need to build up their reading power and patience to get into chapter books. (My daughter is now 9 1/2 and we are in that struggle right now). I hadn't really attempted anything too long by 3rd grade, but my teacher began Charlotte's Web with us. We would be able to put our heads down and she would read 1-2 chapters to us aloud. We were engrossed and it was like a soap opera! "How could she stop there!? We need to find out what comes next!". And we found ourselves anxiously awaiting the next reading sessions. I think this approach was a nice way to get children into understanding the magic of chapter books. I have been working through Harry Potter with my daughter and surprisingly, she picked up "Hugo Cabret" all by herself! She just finished it last night! I think me reading aloud to her through a big chapter book finally gave her the push to take on one on her own. It works!
4. What do you think the future holds for readers?
In the brave new world of digital readers, ebooks and social media, it is very hard to say. I see my daughter on my iPad downloading comics and picture books and reading them. It is amazing how in tune children are with technology. It seems that they have no problem reading on a kindle or online. I am "old school" and prefer (and hope) paper books will still be in existence. I enjoy the tactile experience it provides. I just can't "cozy up" with my iPad, a blanket and some tea! It doesn't work for me.
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?
It is so important to read loud to children. And if they cannot get that experience at home (like me) it is important for them to get the resources they need to experience it in their schools, libraries or community organizations. It feeds their creativity, their ability to write and express themselves, and even to mentally escape into a story-which may be a very healthy thing depending on their socio-economic reality. As I think back, if I did not have the people in my life read aloud to me, I would not have learned to excel in writing, be creative, or be confident to push boundaries. I won the young author's contest at our grammar school in both 4th and 5th grade! I don't think I would have had the skills or the confidence to have achieved that if teachers did not read loud to me throughout my childhood. Stories have been a part of the human race since we could create fire and sit around it to ward off the night and cold. We told stories to forget, to escape, to inspire, to empower, to teach. We still need that, one would argue even more so in this day and age-all of us.
To learn more about Flora, follow her on Twitter @urbandomsticdva and on her websites: