Tracy Kampa

“Mrs. Kampa read to me.”

I was sitting at a table at a local brewing company last week with members of my book club. (Yeah, we’re cool enough to meet in bars.) A former student of mine was working behind the counter, and when I went to order, we had a delightful few minutes to visit. Later, she came to our table to clear some dishes and I introduced her to my group. “Mrs. Kampa is the best,” she said, “Mrs. Kampa read to me.” It was fun to see her again. It was only later that I was struck by what she didn’t say. She didn’t say I was her librarian, and she didn’t say she was in the same class with one of my children. She wanted my group to know that I had read to her.

I think back to other encounters. I was getting groceries one day many years ago when the gentleman who was bagging my order asked “do you still read to kids?” It took me a moment to place him, and as I was remembering, he added, “you read “Harriet the Spy” to me, and it’s the best book I’ve ever heard.” We talked about the book for a minute, and, as I was leaving the store, I realized that I had read that book to him almost a full decade earlier.

I was in the bookstore one day when a former student raced up to me, “Mrs. Kampa! Mrs. Kampa! I’m so glad you’re here! I have a little cousin who says he doesn’t like to read, and I thought of that book you read to me in second grade, but I can’t remember the name of the book. I know if he read it, he’d love it! It was about that mouse who rode that motorcycle, do you remember?” “The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary,” I said. “That’s it!” he shouted, and raced to find it on the shelves. (I was left shaking my head. His energy level hadn’t decreased since those early years. Even more surprising? Apparently, he was listening the whole time!)

I think this is important, and it is a new thought for me. I was able to share some really great books with hundreds of kids over the years. I had always thought the value of that interaction came from the book, from the story that we shared. And while I don’t want to undermine that idea, I’m beginning to think that the power, the thing that people remember, is that somebody read to them. Of course, reading a great story helps cement the encounter. But maybe that’s not the most important part. Maybe readers are created not just by exposure to the stories, but, rather, by the transfer of the love of reading that we get when somebody reads to us. (I also noticed that in each of the above encounters, the former student said “you read to me,” not, “you read to my class.” Obviously this was not only a memorable experience, but a personal one as well.) This new thought is going to spend some time bouncing around my brain. In the meantime, the one thing we can all take from this is that reading aloud is powerful. Where the epicenter of that power exists may still be unclear, but, please, know that sharing stories is something that might be remembered for a lifetime.

P.S. I know I promised you another column of potential Newbery nominees, but I was swept up in this new read-aloud idea, and wanted to share. So, how about a few titles rather than an entire column? “Cape” by Hannigan, “Caterpillar Summer” by McDunn, “More to the Story” by Khan, “Not If I Can Help It” by Mackler, and “Roll with It” by Sumner all have a chance to add a medal to their covers. (“Roll with It” features a main character with cerebral palsy, a decidedly underrepresented demographic!) Come and check them out!

This Week at Your Library:

Monday, December 2, at 9:30 and 10:30 it’s Book Time! Join ECFE teachers in the Story Circle for books, songs, finger plays, flannel board stories, and all other sorts of fun! Then move to the Community Room for a snack, a craft, and a time to play and visit.

Friday, December 6, at 10:30, join us for Tiny Explorers! Geared towards our littlest patrons, babies ages birth through 23 months, this program is an hour full of fun! Sensory stations are set up around the Community Room, and babies touch, see, chew, and feel their way around the area. Throw balls! Rattle toys! Eat crackers! Meet friends! Come for a few minutes or an hour. We are looking forward to seeing you!

Saturday, December 7, at 10:15 and 11:15 it’s Saturday Story Time! Join ECFE teachers in the Story Circle for books and songs, then move to the Community Room for a snack, a craft, and a time to play and visit. Families may earn one Baby Steps coupon for attending this Story Time.

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