My son, Idris, was struggling with reading at the beginning of this school year. We’ve been working hard to improve his reading skills. He is highly motivated most of the time and he’s made great strides since the fall. Lately, he’s been a little resistant to embrace our reading time, especially on long weekdays.
Over the weekend, we had some time and I really wanted him to get enthralled in a great book. I considered taking him to Barnes and Nobel to buy a new book. We saw Star Wars last weekend so I thought about getting a Star Wars book. Instead, I decided to shop our bookshelves. In celebration of Black History Month, I pulled a few books that celebrated black culture, history or featured black characters.
After I pulled an armful, I let him choose which one we’d read together. He chose Anansi the Spider a tale from the Ashanti. I read it to him when he was a little younger, but I’m not sure he remembered. I recalled my childhood memories of Anansi. My parents, aunties, and uncles would tell stories about him. I was excited to share the story with him again.
We read the tale of Kwaku Anansi and how his 6 brave spider sons helped save him from trouble. I proudly listened to him read the passages that would have stumped him a few months ago. As he read, I realized a multitude of connections the story had to him, me, and our family history.
Idris’ middle name is Kweku and it’s Ghanaian for a son born on Wednesday. Kweku and Kwaku are so close spelling that we were intrigued. After reading, we decided to Google the meaning of Kwaku. We learned that Kweku is an alternate spelling of Kwaku and the names have the same meaning. He was thrilled to see one of his unique names in a book and that it was the name of the main character was an added bonus!
I told Idris why we decided to give him a Ghanaian middle name although both sides of the family come from Jamaica. Years ago, one of my maternal aunts researched our ancestry and discovered that part of our roots are in the Ashanti tribe (as is the case with many Jamaicans). My mother's great great grandmother was Ashanti and likely brought to Jamaica from Ghana as a slave.
Idris had questions about the author of the book. He wanted to know when he wrote the story. I explained to him that this was a very old story – older than the author. This was created by the Ashanti people and the author, Gerald McDermott, recorded it. We searched the copywrite page for the date of publication. It was 1972, the year I was born. Idris knows that I’m 43 and shouted out, “That was 43 years ago!”
There was so much wrapped up in this little picture book. What started as the hope to find an interesting book turned into so much more. Idris rated the book 5 stars!
Carol Higgins-Lawrence wrote her first story at the age of five. Her father paid her a quarter for it and she's been writing ever since. She's taken a variety of courses in writing for children. Multicultural perspectives are of particular interest to her. Carol is of Jamaican descent and was born and raised in Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Sociology and she has completed coursework towards a MA in TESOL. She has worked as a literacy educator for the past 15 years. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at carolhl.weebly.com
Anyone who knows me knows that books are my weakness. I’ve got books in every room of my house and I honestly go into withdrawals if I go a day without reading. Reading aloud during the day to my older children is one of the happy hazards of homeschooling. I read to them as they fold the clothes or do the dishes or clean their rooms. It’s a win win situation, right? They’re happy and they’re getting their chores done and we’re doing something educational! I also read picture books to my unsuspecting clients. I’m a marriage and family therapist and a firm believer in bibliotherapy!
So when I learned about World Read Aloud Day, I was thrilled. Exactly one week from today millions of people in more than 100 countries will celebrate world read aloud day by reading aloud of course! I can’t wait to read my book to classrooms in Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa and Georgia over Skype! If you are an author, there’s still time to sign up for Skype visits on the World Read Aloud Day page. Just go to Kate Messner’s blog, to sign up!
Reading aloud is a wonderful way to understand the true impact of the words in any book. As a picture book writer, I look forward to reading picture books to my kids every day because not only can I learn from their reactions to the books, but I also have the privilege of bonding with my kids over book love!
As a bibliophile, I jumped at the chance to team up with Carrie Charley Brown this year to co-coordinate a challenge for book lovers everywhere. It’s called Reading for Research Month (ReFoReMo). The challenge is to read 5 stellar picture books a day for 21 days! As a writer, reading these books helps me improve my writing skills. As a reader, reading these books brings me joy. If you love reading and writing, I invite you to join the challenge. And here’s a song by the brilliant Emily Arrow to get you pumped about book love and ReFoReMo!
Kirsti Call is a homeschooling mom of five. Her debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn't Fall, came out December 2013 with Character Publishing. Her family band, Calling Out, plays songs written by her children. She contributes to Writer's Rumpus, and Institute of Children's Literature. She co-coordinates Reading for Research Month, a challenge for picture book writers who use mentor texts to improve their writing skills. If you visit her house, you’ll likely find her reading or writing. You can find out more about her at www.kirsticall.com.
Hopefully, after time in the drawer, you can go back to a manuscript and love it. But you must also be able to read it like you never saw it before. I recommend this first read be done with pen and paper close to hand, in part because it keeps you in mind that you’re working. You don’t quite get sucked into just reading.
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