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Reflections of a Voice Talent Volunteer Reading in Schools

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

April 28, 2009

Comments (10)

Male teacher reading to kids in a school libraryHave 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.

Reflections on Being a Celebrity Reader

By Elaine Victoria Grey

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


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.

Did you enjoy Elaine's story?

Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Jani Bryson

Related Topics: art, Caldecott, Celebrity, Celebrity Reader, child, Elaine Victoria Grey, Hosmer School, kids, narration, Norma Ciccarelli, reading, Scholastic


Comments


    I've always felt reading to children would not only be a great way keep ones narration skills honed but, more so a way to give to the community and to be part of contributing to children and their education, well that's just special.

    Thank you for your inspiration

    Posted by:
    • Daniel Wallace
    • April 28, 2009 5:00 PM

      I loved this article. I have also enjoyed the pleasure of reading to elementary school children and seeing their little faces light up when the book is brought to life for them with character voices and lots of expression. I would go into my daughter's 3rd grade class every week to work with kids in small reading groups. We'd work on learning how to use the 'codes' in the text to make sense of it, such as the punctuation and speech marks for dialogue etc. Then, every now and again the teacher would ask me to read to the whole class so the kids could listen to me using those 'codes' and let them understand that a book is not just words on a page. It's a gateway to another world and a world you can bring to life. That teacher told me that by the end of the school year, 95% of her class was now enthusiastic about reading and looked forward to their 'reading discussions' on Fridays when they talked about the books they'd each read that week. How rewarding is that???? Nothing can beat it!!

      Posted by:
      • Pearl Hewitt
      • April 28, 2009 8:25 PM

        The one thing I knew I would miss about teaching was reading to the young ones -- so I still do live storytelling (on or off book) with school children when I have the time. Best gigs ever. We have interactive story sessions where the students get involved in the story with movement, improv or adlib dialog -- tremendous fun and most rewarding.

        Posted by:
        • Diane Havens
        • April 28, 2009 8:25 PM

          I loved being a "celebrity reader" reading at schools - the kids also seem to like it when you change your voice to "be" a character! I've learned to develop characters that way...now to keep my reading skills up, I now volunteer to read to the blind one day a week (it's usually our local morning paper). No money involved in either of these things but the rewards are tremendous!

          Posted by:
          • Liz Wylder Boyer
          • April 28, 2009 9:09 PM

            Never thought about this, but this is really inspiring.
            I believe it would be a wonderful experience to read a story to kids. Great idea, shall search for local schools to start with.
            Thanks for this post!!

            Posted by:

              Yes, reading to children is a wonderful thing! I was always the "mom reader" - they didn't call me a "celebrity reader" but made me feel like one - in all 3 of my sons classes all the way through elementary school. Once a week I would read to each of their classes. Sometimes I'd read shorter books and sometimes I'd read a novel from week to week. That was how I read the first Harry Potter novel. It was a wonderful experience that I cherish. The children and the teachers were so appreciative and it was so much fun being in touch with my sons' school experience in that way. I have many thank you items that the classes made at the end of each school year, from large books they made with pictures they had drawn and thank you notes they each wrote, to a large painted flowerpot with each of their thumbprints applied in paint and turned into ladybugs that I still proudly display in my studio. The kids still remember me, too, and when we meet at high school events or out and about, they will always call me by name, and I can see the tiniest bit of the children they once were in each of their grown up faces.

              Posted by:

                As my daughter was growing up, I volunteered at her magnet schools often--right through elementary and middle schools. Even middle-school-age students loved the school's "Families for Literacy" or some such named nights at the school. The teachers and other volunteers would dress up as characters (the principal even dressed up as The Cat in the Hat and two other teachers became Thing 1 and Thing 2) and read books to the families. I read one of my favorite short stories of all time, a parody of Edgar Allen Poe written by--of all people--John Steinbeck! called "The Affair at 7, Rue de M--" about a piece of bubble gum that stalks the author's 10-year-old son! Very intense--very silly. I handed out pieces of Double Bubble to all the kids at the end. I think you can find the story online. Another favorite is "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm" by Jerdine Nolan. You can guess that every kid got a colorful helium balloon to take home!
                What fun when a story comes to life when read by a competent storyteller. And what a great way to take your vocal acting skills out into the community! In both high school and college, I was involved with the Forensics team in prose and dramatic interp, so voiceovers were a natural extension. Thanks for reminding us all that this wonderful outlet is available to us!

                Posted by:
                • Robin Rowan
                • April 29, 2009 10:12 AM

                  What a wonderful idea. I'm inspired. Plus, I love to see kids eyes light up when they discover something new.

                  Thank you so much for sharing.


                  JG

                  Posted by:

                    Great story Elaine and Stephanie. As a long time volunteer storyteller, I cherish the times I get to read for children, and I love when they write you thank you's with a drawing they make of you. I've never looked better. :D If reading to a group of children makes you uncomfortable, there are alot of children that need the extra help learning to read one on one, and with the budget cuts, I'm sure teachers would welcome volunteers. I tutored a kindergarten boy years ago who came from a family of 9 children, and a working, single, father. Unfortunately, this left no time for the father to work with the boy. His older siblings, not knowing better, did the boy's homework thinking this helped him. This could have resulted in the boy being held back in kindergarten, but with a once a week commitment by me for 30 minutes, we had him up to speed enough to go on to 1st grade. And the smile on his face said it all, he felt special to have someone pay some individual attention just to him. Or you can always do Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, my other love. There it's just you, a booth and a book, but you touch so many lives it's priceless. Share your talents, you will be paid back handsomely in smiles, hugs and the satisfaction of knowing you have touched a heart, a soul, a life.

                    Posted by:

                      Very pleased to see an article on this. Reading for children is how I met my wife (although, to clarify, she was not one of the children). And not only has it been a viable source of income for me as a performer, it has been so much more rewarding to see the delight of kids rediscovering a favorite storybook brought to life with a narrative performance and character voices. I have been developing a reading program for kids to teach the craft of storytelling and creating character voices and did a test run earlier this year for 100 3rd graders. One of the classes wrote me a pile of thank you letters saying such precious and wonderful things that I can't wait to officially launch this program in the near future for the ways it will encourage kids to read out loud and be creative and enhance their reading and language comprehension at the same time.

                      Posted by:

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