Welcome back to our monthly literacy guest Q & A when we chat with someone who is passionate about literacy development in young children. This month I’m happy to introduce you to Michelle Nott. Michelle joins us from Belgium and has lots of interesting stories. Let’s get to know her a little bit better and hear her ideas on literacy.
Michelle, tell us about your blog?
Good Night, Sleep Tight is a compilation of read-aloud stories for children ages 2 and up. I also include personal accounts of living abroad as an expat mother raising Third Culture Kids. My goal with this blog is to provide stories to be shared between the reader and the child to encourage communication and imagination. In the end, I include a few “What do you think?” questions following each story.
What is a favorite post that you have blogged about in 2012?
This past year, my favorite blog post has been Why French Parenting is Superior… Really? In response to Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. In this post, I talk about my experience with French parenting while a nanny in France and now married to a Frenchman. But the point wasn’t to side with one culture or another. Rather, I wanted to counter the frequent comparing and criticizing of parenting skills and philosophies. Parenting is really challenging. Period. No matter the culture, we do our best.
As far as my favorite story post, I really like Traveling with Parents. As a family, we have traveled to many countries and particularly numerous times across the Atlantic to see American relatives. Although this story is purely fictional, Traveling with Parents was inspired by our excitement and anxieties facing these trips. So often airline passengers complain about traveling with children, yet this story is written from a child’s point of view. As such, we see in a humorous way how traveling with grown-ups isn’t necessarily easy either.
What are some activities that you’ve done with your kids at home to promote literacy?
The first step I took to promote literacy was to keep our bookshelves in constant stock of interesting and age-appropriate titles. But I didn’t hide my husband’s nor my books away. I wanted the children to turn the big glossy pages of my art and travel books too.
I have also always encouraged imagination and writing. From before my children could write themselves, they would dictate their stories to me as I wrote them down. Now they write their own stories and help critique mine.
Living in a very international environment with friends from many cultures and having traveled to many countries, we enjoy learning as much as we can about the places we go and the people we meet. Very often, we research “international recipes” (not American, French, or Belgian) to make. We then talk about the country from which the recipe comes and its people. Whenever possible, we find a book to read that depicts that culture.
These experiences have proven successful for us. Just last week, my daughters offered to do extra chores around the house to earn a trip to their favorite English bookstore near Brussels.
Do you have any literacy rituals in your family?
Literacy rituals started as soon as my children were born. For example, I began reading board books and poetry to my children before every nap and bedtime. When my eldest daughter was 22 months, her sister was born. So while I nursed the baby, I would read books to my first daughter sitting next to us so she wouldn’t feel left out. Inevitably, both girls received lots of book time.
In Belgium, school lets out at noon on Wednesdays. So, we use that afternoon to go to the local library.
My daughters are now 8 and 10, and I still read to them at bedtime. However, my eldest daughter sometimes prefers to read on her own at this age. But she enjoys telling me all about the story when I go into her bedroom to say good-night.
Instead of turning on the TV for some “down time”, I call “quiet book time.” My daughters then run to get a book from the shelves and plop somewhere comfortably.
My husband and I are raising our daughters in a bi-lingual home, and they attend a bi-lingual school (French and English). And so, I have had the extra challenge to encourage reading and writing in both languages. But I feel that as soon as they possessed a love of reading and writing in one language, it flowed naturally to the other language.
If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading and/or writing with children, what would it be?
Read to them and write with them at every age! Even though communicating by e-mail is fast and convenient, teach them to write letters (or draw a picture) to family and to read the ones they get in return. A young child gets more pleasure with a crayon or pencil in his/her hand than searching for letters on a keyboard.
Getting To Know You A Little Bit More…
If you could have brunch with three characters from children’s literature, who would you invite?
I would invite Amelia Bedelia who would offer to bring some home-made treats, Ramona who would bring her fig newtons, and I’d ask Clifford to pick them both up on his way to my house.
Hardcover or e-book?
Hardcover. I child needs to enjoy a book with all five senses. Rather than touching an image to see a character move, a child should get up herself and dance. E-books may have a certain value for children but, in my opinion, offer a different experience that can’t be compared to snuggling up to a good book, feeling the pages turn, and hearing a loving and familiar voice tell the story.
What is a fond childhood memory you have?
One of my fondest literary memories was when I was in third grade. We were to all write and illustrate our own picture book story. Then, the room mothers came in to bind our books with scraps of fabric and empty cereal boxes we each had to contribute. When the books were finished, a prize was given to the “best” story. I remember my classmate won with her story about a ladybug. I was very disappointed because my story entitled, “The Girl Who Wanted to Play Baseball” lost. I suppose almost 40 years ago, it was too controversial (tee hee). But, the experience didn’t deter my love of writing stories…In fact, my first picture book entitled Freddy, Hoppie, and the Eyeglasses will be published later this year.
Where is your favorite place to read a book?
My favorite place to read is in the front sun room of our family cottage in Cornwall, UK.
What book is on your nightstand or e-reader now?
La Mer, le matin, an Italian novel by Margaret Mazzantini translated into French, is on my nightstand. And among many books on my Kindle, I am currently reading Screenwriting Tips for Authors by Alexandra Sokel.
Thank you Michelle for sharing a little a bit on the role literacy plays in your life. We wish you much success on your first picture book this year!
Stay tuned next month when we will have another literacy guest spotlights to share! Are you a parent, teacher, librarian, blogger or lover of reading? If you would like to be featured in the Literacy Guest Spotlight Q & A, please contact me.