We usually highlight a literacy guest on the last day of each month. However, I have so many guests that I want to spotlight that I decided to showcase two people this month. So, today we are going to meet Maria Burel from Once Upon a Story blog. And, stay tuned because tomorrow Maria will be guest posting on Growing Book by Book.
Maria, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Oooh, the loaded question!
Professionally, I taught 4th and 5th grades (primarily language arts) for several years. I then went back to school to earn my graduate degree in Library and Information Science, with a concentration in school libraries. I’m proud of that degree, and glad I took the opportunity to pursue it, but I’ve never used it in a traditional work setting because…
I’m also a stay-at-home parent of two young children. My daughter is 3.5 years old, and my son is almost 1 (ack!). I’ve been at home full-time since my daughter was about 6 months. I like to think that all my education and experience is still being put to good use, just not in the traditional classroom setting.
Tell us about your blog, Once Upon a Story.
Once Upon a Story grew out of my desire to share my passion for children’s literature with other parents, teachers, and librarians. It gives me that professional connection, while still allowing me to stay at home with my kids.
On the blog, you’ll find reviews of everything from board books all the way through middle grade novels. There are personal anecdotes, confessions of my parenting “failures”, and weekly video book talks from my 3-year-old. It’s a mix of the personal and the more traditional book blog, incorporating both the professional me and the mom me.
What are a few of your favorite books that you have blogged about this year?
I am absolutely, totally, completely in love with the picture book The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce. It’s about the enduring power of words, the way a simple text can touch an individual, and, more simply a man’s lifelong adoration for the written word. Sounds deep, and it can be, but it’s also written in a way that elementary age readers can enjoy. Not to mention, the illustrations are stunning. It’s a book for those who enjoy books.
As for slightly older readers, two books I keep recommending again and again are The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, and The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. Both are historical fiction novels featuring strong young protagonists who stick with you long after you’ve finished the final page.
What are some activities that you’ve done with your little ones at home to promote literacy?
We are public library addicts! I think we have approximately 30 books checked out at this time. Sounds crazy, but we really do read them all! We’ve fallen into the pattern of visiting on Wednesday afternoons, and we bring home books for the week (or sometimes longer), 2 audio (picture) books for the car, and 2 DVDs (because we don’t have cable, and let’s face it…Mommy needs some moments of peace). My daughter has recently decided that she must carry her own library bag, and so that bag contains books she picks out for herself, as well as a few board books she selects for her brother.
I also try (and the key word is “try”) to incorporate a little bit of writing. My daughter signs her own name to birthday cards. She dictates emails for the grandparents. We work together to write thank-you notes for birthday or Christmas gifts.
And we talk. Talking builds vocabulary, right? I may actually have done a little too well with this because my daughter talks so much, and with so much detail, that the rest of the family doesn’t have much of an opportunity to speak 😉
Do you have any literacy rituals in your family?
Besides the weekly library trips, we read before naptime and bedtime. With my daughter, this time became almost sacred after her brother was born. No matter what, she can count on this time to be just the two of us, with her tucked into her toddler bed and me sitting next to her on the floor.
I’m also real big on giving books as gifts for birthdays and holidays. I enjoy the process of selecting one that “speaks” to the recipient. We have books about sassy little girls, siblings, princesses, and trains. We have books about daddy-daughter relationships, and growing up, and resolving arguments. It’s amazing how often my daughter will relate back to something we’ve read. They really are listening and learning!
If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading and/or writing with children, what would it be?
Relax! In an age of test scores and federal standards, parents get caught up in what is the “right” reading material. I believe if it has them reading…it’s right. Graphic novels, magazines, books, whatever. It doesn’t all have to be “high” literature. Didn’t we all have a formula series (Goosebumps or Babysitter’s Club or Sweet Valley High) that we devoured? There’s a time and a place for analyzing literature. But reading for pure enjoyment is so very important, too.
Getting To Know You A Little Bit More…
If you could have brunch with three characters from children’s literature, who would you invite?
Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables), Molly Lou Melon (Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon), and Carley (One for the Murphys). How’s that for eclectic?!
Hardcover or e-book?
Still mostly hardcover, though I love my e-reader for travel! So nice not to have to carry multiple heavy books around.
What is a fond childhood memory you have?
I love libraries. I have very distinct memories of the school and public libraries where I spent a significant amount of time. I remember the summer I read through the whole Little House series, or the way the library in my hometown growing up was in an older building with beautiful stained glass windows. I hope my kids fondly remember their weekly library visits, too.
Where is your favorite place to read a book?
Bed! It means the end of the day has come, the kids are sleeping, and it’s time for some “me time.”
What book is on your nightstand or e-reader now?
I’m currently reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, illustrated by Ana Juan.
Maria, thank you for a sharing with Growing Book by Book readers. We look forward to your guest post tomorrow.
Stay tuned later this month when we will have another literacy guest spotlights to share! If you would like to be featured in the Literacy Guest Spotlight Q & A, please contact me.