By Stephanie Ciccarelli
April 28, 2009
Have you ever volunteered as a reader in a school or library?
Maybe you've always wanted to do so but haven't researched the opportunities available to you.
Hear about Elaine Victoria Grey's experience as a "Celebrity Reader" in the school system and how volunteering her gifts as a narrator and artist impacted children and inspired her in her career.
An opportunity to become a "Celebrity Reader" was presented to me a number of years ago, when an elementary school teacher, (coincidentally her name was Norma Ciccarelli), requested that I read to her fourth-fifth grade class. It was a pleasure for me to accept the offer.
The event took place during Celebrity Read-a-thon Week, at the Hosmer School, Watertown, MA, which became an annual event that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Mrs. Ciccarelli would allow me to pick books that I would like to read to her class, and she would also make suggestions and give me a selection of books to choose from that were prize winners. Most of the times I would pick from the books she suggested, and I always selected two books for the big day.
For those of you who are looking for books now, there is a site called Scholastic.com, where some award winning books are listed. For instance there is the Caldecott and the Newbury Medal award collection.
The Caldecott Medal award winner, "The Trumpet Swan" by E.B. White is a favorite of mine and the children loved it because it had wonderful illustrations. Note: Randolf Caldecott was a 18th century illustrator.
The favorite books are not only ones that are well written, but ones that are well illustrated. This was important, because as I read to the children, I would turn the pages toward them so they could see the vivid images of the story.
Because I am an artist, I would also ask Mrs. Ciccarelli to have drawing paper and markers and or crayons on each students desk so I could ask them to draw what they were feeling as I was reading to them.
I got great feedback from the school, the children and the parents and got invited back each year. The children would always ask me lots of questions about my career as an artist, and they would readily answer questions that I would ask of them.
Where did my inspiration come from? My inspiration can be found in the face of each child, and the knowledge that I could share something special with them that they may always remember, and that might make that little difference in their lives.
I believe we need to give back to our communities, and that we should share the gifts that we have received with future generations.
When I was a child, I used to go to the library every week to "hear a women read to me. She would read from Grimm's Fairy Tales." I will never forget her. She gave me my first taste of Literature, and then reading became such an important part of my life.
The greatest gift I received from reading to those fourth graders is the feeling that I had when I saw the satisfaction on their faces and knew that I touched their imagination in a very special way.
Some of the children would give me one of their sketches to keep as a remembrance. The rest of the sketches would get pinned up on the board. Usually, there was always one or two children who would never pick up the marker to draw and their paper would remain as white as snow, until towards the end of the reading I would look up and see them drawing. It was a wonderful reward.
And lastly, I would receive a Celebrity Reader Certificate along with a framed note of thanks from the children with all of their signatures. How cool!
Do you want to read to children at schools?
My advice is not to wait any longer. Get involved.
ELAINE VICTORIA GREY IS A CELEBRATED BOSTON ARTIST, whose accomplishments include a one-person exhibit entitled "Innovations" at Harvard University's Baker Library and copyright renderings of historic sites in Boston.
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