WRADvocate Profile: Debi Pfitzenmaier

Debi is a  writer, media relations pro, mom to beautiful kids, psychologist wannabe, lifelong learner, book lover, and our WRADvocate from San Antonio, Texas! Debi writes a beautiful blog called SA Busy Kids, which answers this question for San Antonio parents: What am I going to do with my kids today? We wouldn't be surprised if Debi replied, "read"!

Learn more about Debi below:

1. Can you share some of your earliest memories of reading and how they impacted you?

My bedroom had a big closet, and in that closet was a set of shelves and those shelves were filled with books. I think I always had my nose in one. I loved Aesop's fables and The Great Brain books. And when my teachers would tell me to write, I would grab a book and emulate what I saw. I think this is why I became a writer. Because I loved to read, and I loved the way words could be woven together to tell a story.

2. Is there a particular book that has changed your life in some way and why?

George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons. It's challenging to get through...one sentence can be an entire paragraph long. But he made me completely rethink everything I thought I believed through the beauty of his prose, the logic of his thought and the strength of his convictions. The man is nothing short of brilliant. Whether you agree with him or not, you must give thought to the ideas he puts forward when faced with his reasoning.

3. What advice would you give to teachers, parents and caregivers who want to reach their struggling readers?

Let go of the rules. Who said we have to read at a specific level? Let a child read a preschool book if the topic interests him. I just finished reading a 4th grade book, Shakespeare's Secret, and it was absolutely delightful! As C.S. Lewis said "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a children's story in the slightest." I never understood why age or reading level mattered if the story interested you.

Who said we had to sit up straight at the table? Maybe your child needs to move. Put him on a giant exercise ball and let him bounce around while he reads or let her lay on her stomach.

And who ever said we had to read alone? Share the experience by reading together. Maybe you read the same book by taking turns reading the sentence. Laugh at how the words sound. Talk about what the story is about. Make up a different ending. Or maybe you just set aside a family reading night and everyone reads his or her own book in the same room at the same time.

Teach a child to love words, the sound of words, the way they tickle your tongue and roll around your mouth. Laugh at how the words sound. Balderdash, cockamamie and albondigas (a Spanish word for meatballs) are some really funny sounding words. Share some palindromes like civic, level, stats and solos. Create some rhymes or make a wordle (wordle.net) from the main words in a book. Words really are so much fun!

Find anything and everything (online and off) that caters to whatever your child is passionate about and put it in front of him to read.

This helps foster a love of reading, instead of leaving it on the line item listed as "chore."

 

4. What book do you think young people should not miss?

Any book about whatever it is they love. Because what I think you shouldn't miss doesn't matter; it's all about the person who is reading. Besides, I'd probably end up giving you a whole list. Too difficult to narrow down to just one.

5. 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?


I think you have to let go of the notion that you can teach someone to read. You can only provide the conditions in which they can learn and maybe show them some basic tools, like sounding out words. Foster curiosity, however, and you open the door that fuels the desire to read. And reading opens the door to worlds unknown. This is why good readers are such interesting people!

To learn more about Debi, follow her on @MomonMars and @SABusyKids. You can also visit her on her blog!