Why interactive reading?

Sometimes we do something for so long that it becomes common place for us. We forget what it was like before that change happened. Today was one of those reminder moments for me.

Joann Hunter is a librarian at the East Branch Library. She designs and runs our programming that is held there, but has been on maternity leave the past two months. Monday she came back, and the kids were absolutely elated! They love Zackary Hoskins who stood in for her while she was out, but Joann can never be replaced!

You see, if it wasn’t for her, we would not have the partnership we do with EVPL. We would not have programming at the library. Most importantly though, I do not think the youth would have made the incredible progress in reading that they have.

Early last fall, after doing reading assessments on the youth and having a huge wake-up call as to how far behind many were, we immediately went and talked to Joann. She started making changes in how we were engaging in literacy with the youth. Adding visuals, key words, definitions, but most importantly, incorporating interactive reading time. The kind that is in the video above.

That one piece changed their view on books and reading. For the first time, some were starting to see how reading was about exploring. Exploring worlds, ideas, interests, and more. Being able to talk, ask questions, and have discussions about what was being read gave them a new kind of power and confidence. It gave them a way to engage in learning on whole new level.

Seeing that change was powerful. We started incorporating that into other areas of the program and in just a few short weeks the highest request we got from the youth was books… more books… always books.

Now that style of reading and interaction happens every time we go to EVPL, which is twice a week. I have gotten so used to it that I rarely think about the way we did it before. A conversation today reminded me though. It reminded me how truly lucky we are to have developed this partnership. How lucky we are that Joann could see this problem through the eyes of a child and find a way that engaged them on a level that changed the narrative for these youth. It reminded me that sometimes a small change can lead to the greatest discovery that will completely change the lives of people.

It is reasons like this that we deeply value the relationship we have with our local library and the librarians who create this extraordinary change in the youth. Even if they sometimes do not see the full impact their presence and talents have on the kids, we do. We see it in their actions. We hear it in their conversations and comments. Most of all the youth prove it every time they sit on that wonderful green rug in the East Branch basement, in excited anticipation for the next book and conversation.

About the author: Lisa Barnett