Welcome to our monthly literacy guest Q & A when we chat with someone who is passionate about literacy development in young children. I really meant to get this out yesterday! This month I’m happy to introduce you to one of the best teachers that I know. I had the pleasure of working with Sarah Yates for two years. She is the teacher that every parent dreams of for their child! Let’s get to know her a little bit better and hear her ideas on literacy.
Sarah, tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been teaching and what grades have you taught?
This is my 5th year teaching – wow! I have taught 1 year of kindergarten, 3 years in first grade, and this is my first year teaching 2nd grade. Kindergarten was my biggest challenge year – it truly takes a VERY patient person to teach K! I loved 1st grade, but I have a feeling 2nd grade might be my niche.
What are some activities that you have done in your classroom to help students acquire a love for reading?
Honestly, the biggest way for students to acquire a love of reading is for adults to model their own genuine love of reading. Students are the MOST excited to sit down with a good book when I read my favorites to them. I get excited to read – and the excitement catches! (More about my personal favorites later). I think letting students have choice is also big in my classroom, and naturally, if students have a choice, they will enjoy it more. We do independent reading every day – and students select their own books (within reason). If a boy wants to read all nonfiction books about bug and creepy crawlies, great! I might even let him explore his own lesson about bugs and teach it to others!
What were some of the favorite books in your classroom this past school year?
Cynthia Rylant is one of my favorite authors, so we spend a lot of time on her books. My favorites are When I Was Young in the Mountains, The Old Woman Who Named Things, and The Relatives Came. I also love Mo Willems, and his Elephant & Piggie books. Really, anything by him has tons of expression so it’s easy to read aloud to kids and make really fun and exciting. And our favorite chapter book is always Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. The book is hilarious, and kids love the adventures of Peter & Fudge.
You’ve met with lots of parents. What questions do you hear the most often about literacy?
My biggest question is, what can I be doing at home to help my student? I know parents are sick of teachers harping on this, but READ!!! Read together and make it a meaningful activity. Ways to make it meaningful are to read and then discuss the book. Ask each other questions, and have a your own mini book discussion. Good questions to ask: What was your favorite character and why? If you could rewrite the ending, how would you change the book? If you could be any character, who would you be? Would you do anything different as that character? Has anything like this ever happened to you? Questions like that help students see that reading is a meaningful activity, not something to just pass the time and finish as quickly as possible.
If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading and/or writing with children, what would it be?
Reading and writing at home should be laid-back and exploratory. Learning at school is much different, because as a teacher, we have 24 students to teach. So obviously students are getting less personal attention, and have more work to complete independently. But at home, reading & writing with children should be a fun, personal, one-on-one experience. It should not be stressful and/or tear-inducing. With preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders, it could be fun alphabet or sight word activities like cutting letters/words out of magazines, working with play dough (good for fine motor skills too!), drawing in chalk, etc. See Pinterest for some fabulous ideas. Older elementary-age kids would do great at book discussions (see above) and other creative activities, like designing their own book covers or creating a “family newsletter.”
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 love to get to know Anne of Green Gables over pancakes – she is my personal favorite character from when I was a girl. I would also invite Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, because she is such a strong female character, and then Harry Potter because I am fascinated by that series. I have read the entire Anne of Green Gables and Harry Potter series more times than I care to count.
Hardcover or e-book?
Always hardcover. I’m old-fashioned that way!
What is a fond childhood memory you have?
I would save up my allowance and beg my mom to take me to our local bookstore to buy the next Anne of Green Gables book. I am sad to watch neighborhood bookstores cease to exist, because going and picking out new books was one of my favorite activities. But, I’m so glad most communities have fabulous public libraries!
Where is your favorite place to read a book?
In bed, next to my favorite person (my husband). He also loves to read, and we frequently trade books.
What book is on your nightstand or e-reader now?
I am currently reading a baby book because I am 8 months pregnant! However, I am embarrassed to admit that the last novel I read was the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Maybe I can redeem myself by adding that my summertime read was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Great book!!
Sarah, thank you so much for sharing with the Growing Book by Book readers.
UPDATE: Congratulations to Sarah and her husband who welcomed a new baby BOY just a few days ago!
Stay tuned this November when we will have two literacy guest spotlights to share! If you would like to be featured in the Literacy Guest Spotlight Q & A, please contact me.