From a very early age I was lucky enough to develop a love of reading. My parents have photos of me dragging a bottle, blanket, and a book everywhere I went.
I like to think I still do the same thing, just the bottle is usually a great California red instead.
I will stay up all night to devour a book –forgetting to sleep or eat, and I strongly believe this love of reading has led to every success I’ve had in my career. I don’t fear research or learning because words fascinate me and renders time still.
My mom grew up in a family of 11 siblings, and as one of the eldest s, e spent quite a bit of time helping her own mom out at home. It led to a fear of reading out loud in the classroom – and unfortunately stopped her from discovering a love of reading during her formative years.
40 years later one of her best friends was a teacher at one of Edmonton’s inner city schools and she was trying to get kids excited about reading. After hearing the struggles my mom (always the creative soul) recognized that she could help. She had always wished she got into reading at an early age and she could connect with the kids who were not feeling the adventure associated with picking up a book.
Mom created “Mrs. Word”. She wore a brightly coloured dress (think Mrs. Frizzle), big glasses with windshield wipers, and an energetic smile that could get any kid to look up and pay attention. She started by visiting her friend’s school and 15 years later she has volunteered in dozens of Edmonton’s classrooms, even volunteering in classrooms around the province, into the Yukon, and Prince Edward Island. Many years ago, she even hosted a spelling bee on A-Channel (now CityTV).
I thought I would ask her about the importance of Early Childhood Literacy and what inspired her;
How did you come up with Mrs. Word?
A friend needed help developing her literacy program – and I wanted to have something related to books that kids could really gravitate towards. Mrs. Word was a pretty simple name but it was her energy and her attitude that really got kids’ attention.
Why is reading so important for kids?
It opens a lot of doors for their future. You can do anything with books. You can travel, you can see the world, you can be a part of something so much bigger than the world you live in.
I wasn’t a good reader when I was younger, but as I got older I realized the importance, the value, and the enjoyment of reading. The emotions I felt when reading, I never thought I could experience. It helps you recognize aspects of your own life when you read that you never paid attention to before.
What is one of your best memories as Mrs. Word?
After I told a classroom about my own struggles with reading as a young girl, and how it was very difficult for me, one of the students put her hand up very bravely in front of her whole class and said “Mrs. Word – that’s me too. It’s hard for me too”. Many, many years later I will never forget that moment.
Why did you choose to do this as a volunteer?
It was an opportunity for me to be creative and do some good in this world. We all should be doing some good in this world.
Your first grandchild is on the way – do you think he/she will get to meet Mrs. Word?
I hope so!
*(Note from the author – I hope so too!)
My dad has always loved to read – and there is no question when you see both of us sitting across from each other at a table reading while ignoring the world around us, that we are related.
But it is my mom’s commitment to early childhood literacy that made me realize how important and influential reading has been on my life. As a new school year begins I want to wish good luck to the many creative teachers and parents out there who will be working hard to get kids to love reading. Getting kids excited about reading is the first step.