Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reading Aloud and Loving It

Last week I was honoured to be one of a group of guest readers at a local elementary school in celebration of Family Literacy Day. Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by staff and the Grade Eight students who would be our greeters, our tour guides, and the ones to introduce us to each class.

As we moved from class to class at fifteen minute intervals we shared the books we had chosen with the students from kindergarten to Grade Seven. Our Grade Eight ambassadors sometimes got to hear the stories more than once, but they never complained and remained helpful and courteous throughout.

When the bell rang to signal that it was time to move on we were hustled along the hall to the next classroom. The team who helped me find my next stop were three sweet girls — Amanda, Tamara, and Zoë (who also happens to be my granddaughter). That meant I was introduced as "Peggy Dymond Leavey, Local Author and Zoë's Grandmother" (also Miles's when we got to the Grade Four room).

It was a fun morning. I believe you're never too old to enjoy being read to, and there are wonderful picture books out there that work for all ages.

Here are a few tips in case you are lucky enough to be asked to read aloud to someone some day.

If you have only fifteen minutes, picture books of more than forty pages are too long to complete. 
Time your selection carefully.
Practise, practise, practise. 
Be familiar with the story you are reading so that you can make frequent eye contact with your audience; you'll want to gauge their reaction.
Use appropriate facial expressions.
Emote, react, change the tone of your voice to suit the character or the situation.
LOVE the book you choose. It took me three trips to the public library to find the perfect picture books. 

So, which books did I choose?

Kindergarten & Grade One: The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson; Please Louise, by Frieda Wishinsky.
Grade Two & Three: My Sister Gracie, by Gillian Johnson; Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes.
Grade Four & Five: Probuditi, by Chris Van Allsburg. (Fun to see the children "get it.")
Grade Six & Seven: The Real Story of The Big Bad Wolf, by A. Wolf, as told to Jon Scieszka;                               The Stinky Cheese Man, by Jon Scieszka.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On Loving Books

My book-loving Dad with my older sister, Mary, and me in Quebec City. 

Some of the hardest possessions to part with are books. I'm trying to de-clutter these days (aren't we all, in January?) and decided that our bookshelves were long overdue for a purging.

I can be fairly ruthless when it comes to getting rid of paperback picture books or old board books that even the grandchildren have outgrown, but books that have been family favourites will always have a place in our home. As will books that have tender inscriptions in them. Or books that have been signed by the author. I come by this love of books quite honestly.

The other day, while sorting, I came across a tiny, hardcover book called Coaches and Coaching, by Leigh Hunt. I have it here on my desk. It looks a little scruffy, and it is obviously quite old because the pages are yellowed. Printed in Edinburgh, Scotland, there is no publication date, which I find disappointing.

My mother had given it to me after Dad died in 1992. Inside, I find a note on a slip of paper. Mom's note explains that my father bought the book because it was small enough to fit in a pocket. He liked to have a small volume with him wherever he went, my mother explained, so that he was never without something to read.

If you love books, you probably share that sentiment. What do we do if we have nothing to read??

Saturday, January 5, 2013

On Starting to Write

I feel a sense of anticipation now. After months of reading and dabbling at research, I am about to start writing. There will be more of this fact-finding work to come, including visits to Kingston and the Cataraqui Archaelogical Research Centre, the Anglican Diocese of Ontario Archives and I hope, another trip to the Mohawk Valley in New York to follow up on research I began there late last year.

But now I am eager to start the actual writing, to see how the story begins to flow (or not!), to breathe life into the legendary heroine, Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist. Once again, I have taken over the dining room table in our house.

Write on!