WRADvocate Profile: Jackie Higgins

Jackie Higgins is our WRADvocate from St. Louis, Missouri. She is the author of Ready. Set. Read! blog, and is  a former reading specialist/reading recovery teacher turned stay at home mom.

To celebrate World Read Aloud Day, Jackie is planning a fundraising event in her home. Her friends will bring books to swap and a donation to LitWorld. Each friend will leave with a used book that is new to them!

Jackie is also happy to partner with The Teacher's Lounge bookstore in St.Louis, MO. The bookstore is going to host a preschool story time on World Read Aloud day with free crafts and activities.

We are happy to have her on board, and excited to introduce her to you:

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

My reading journey began before I entered school. My dad was a story telling champ. He would read a stack of books every night before bedtime. He always did the voices of the characters. He made cassette tapes of himself reading. We would take those on long car trips with our battery operated tape players. As I got older, my mom started to share some of her “friends” with me. She told me about Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables. My mom, sister, and I had informal book chats that usually took place as she drove us to the public library each week. I never felt required to read a book. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the books we discussed. Having two parents who treasured books impacted me as an educator and a parent. I realized the important role that parents play in a child’s life. I realized that children would grow to love books if they had a role model who loved books. As an educator, I learned that children who didn’t grow up in literate homes needed a mentor to guide them to lead literate lives.

2. Is there a particular book that has changed your life in some way and why?
I was a very shy student in school. I enjoyed school but didn’t always feel my ideas were validated. When I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher was in the library with me. She pulled me aside and said, “I think you’d like this book.” She handed me a copy of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. I really looked up to this teacher and it made me feel special that she had chosen a book for me. She was right! I loved the book. It was the first time I remember a book being a perfect fit for me. It made me feel like someone understood me as a learner. It helped me to realize how to choose good books. It helped me to continue my journey as a reader at a time when there were many other things vying for my attention. It promoted the value of shared experience in reading. That valuable experience stayed with me as an educator and is what motivates me as an early literacy blogger today.

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

My advice to teachers, parents and caregivers who want to reach their struggling readers would be to read, read, read. There are so many programs to teach your child to read, yet the most effective method of teaching is just to read with your child. In order to for the reading to be successful, look for topics that interest your child. If your child falls in love with a character from a particular series, keep that series going. It’s also important to consider the appropriate level of the book you are reading. Make sure it is something your child will enjoy but also something that will stretch your child’s mind. 

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

I think the future holds hope for readers. With advances in technology, readers are able to access print in a variety of ways. This will help reading appeal to a variety of people. Readers are able to find an abundance of reading material on topics of interest. As our society becomes more global, communication tools are spreading into parts of the world that didn’t have them before. Social media is providing a platform to raise awareness of illiteracy and is providing an avenue for change. There are still over 793 million people who do not have basic literacy skills, but there is hope!

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?

The read aloud has the power to bring happiness, peace, comfort, and the ability to dream.  I witness this every night in this season of life. After a long day of two active preschool boys, I snuggle in my son’s bunk bed and open a book. The stresses of the day melt away as we read a book by Mo Williems and laugh hysterically.  The boys quiet as I read scriptures a loud. We say goodnight to the red balloon, and goodnight to nobody and goodnight to the moon. My boys sigh peacefully. We quote Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem,“My bed is a boat” as we float off to dream land. I believe being literate gives a person the ability to not only experience success in education or the workplace. I believe being literate allows a person to live rich, emotionally healthy lives.

To learn more about Jackie, follow her on Twitter @bookblogmama and visit her blog, Ready, Set, Read, here.