WRADvocate Profile: Madeline Boskey



It is our pleasure to introduce you to Madeline Boskey, our WRADvocate from New Jersey. She's got so many great plans to celebrate World Read Aloud Day, and we're thrilled that she's on board.

On February 2, she'll be hosting an event in her home for her local friends, asking them to do a book exchange to share thoughts and books with each other. She'll also be visiting a local nursery school at the Central Presbyterian Church in Summit, New Jersey on March 7. There she will read aloud to a class of children.

To learn more about Madeline, read on below:

1. Can you share some of your earliest memories of reading and how they impacted you? Do you have a memory of someone reading aloud to you that changed you in some way? How did that change you?

I have a very specific early memory—probably from my nursery school years —of my mother reading to me. She introduced a new book—The Little Read Hen. When she finished, I immediately asked her to read it again. She seemed a bit surprised but complied. My mother had been a teacher and I think she must have recognized the importance of what was happening—that I felt such a strong interest or delight in the story that I wanted to repeat the experience.  Tuned in to that instinct, she made me—as a young child—feel powerful. Somehow I think that interaction stayed with me because it communicated a subtle, but powerful message. This reading aloud thing was about more than the book and its storyline. It was also about the relationship between the participants. There is a bond, a relationship that builds between readers and those being read to. I see it now as some kind of power that is communicated through books and reading. Looking back at that interaction, I think that when my mother granted that simple wish, something larger than a rereading took place.

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

The books that most affected me as a child were biographies. I devoured them. I loved reading about the simple and personal details of people’s lives—from Davy Crockett to Joan of Arc. I can still remember Louisa May Alcott’s “inordinate love of cats” or the fact that Jane Addams had a skeletal infirmity. I also learned a lot about history through these books. Reading about the lives of real people inspired me and made me want to do important work when I grew up. I like to think that I do!

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

For parents of struggling readers, I would say first, try to introduce reading material that may spark an interest. If your child doesn’t think he likes to read books, but loves sports, read a sports column with him. Find a particularly good writer so the words will captivate him. Or read aloud jokes and riddles. The silliness will make your child laugh—and is proof that reading brings pleasure. You never know what might be the right hook. Second, if your child is a struggling reader, experiment to find the right level of difficulty. There are resources available to help you choose appropriate books. Try to avoid adding to her frustration by introducing books that are too difficult.  And avoid babyish books that emphasize a feeling that your child is lacking in some way. Struggling readers are all too aware that they are struggling. So be sensitive. Finally, please don’t give up. Keep trying. Be subtle, but be consistent in your efforts. Keep searching to find the books or reading material that will hook your child.

4.  What do you think the future holds for readers?

The changes in technology today are phenomenal. Personally I have embraced many of the new technologies and I enjoy the advantages say of the portability of a book on a digital reading device. I appreciate the ease of instantly downloading a book to read, without traveling to a bookstore or library. Despite the loss of the tactile experience of turning pages, I do consider these advances positive. Do I prefer to read and handle a real book rather than scan words on screen? Absolutely. But I believe there is room for both options.

I think there will always be books. And as educators, parents, and caretakers, we should be sure to instill a love and appreciation for real books and the pleasure they bring. It is up to us to pass along that knowledge so the next generations will enjoy the experience of reading books. There is a role for the low-tech even as technology advances. Think about it: People still ride horses or bicycles even though there are far speedier means of transportation! I think there will always be room on our shelves for books.

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?

Reading aloud is a powerful experience that can bring people closer and make a unique human connection. I think back to my early memory of reading with my mother—and the unspoken but strong knowledge I took away. It makes me think about how the act of reading together is about more than the book being read. The experience is more than a “senior” person—a parent, caregiver, or teacher—pouring words into the young vessel—the child. The act of reading together is one of communication and sharing. In some ways the book is simply a vehicle for that interaction. Discussion, questions, rereading may take place. And beyond that there is a very human, emotional connection. The power of words and human contact is amazing.

To learn more about Madeline, follow her on Twitter @madforreading and visit her blog below:

Mad for Reading