I began reading to Macomb County preschool children in 2012. A job change had put Macomb Community Action (known then as MCCSA) under my leadership, and the Head Start section of Macomb Community Action wasted no time in putting me on their invitation list for March is Reading Month!
It wasn’t a hard sell. I’ve always loved books and reading, not just since college, where I majored in English literature, but as far back as the “See Spot run! Run Spot run!” days of my distant childhood. And ever since the arrival of my own children (Sara in ’82 and Daniel in ’85), I’ve known the special pleasure of reading aloud to little ones.
So every year I go to The Book Beat, an independent bookstore not far from my home, and consult with the owner about what Head Start’s three-, four- and five-year-old children might enjoy. I buy two or three books (one of them is usually Madeline) and I leave them for the classroom when I’m done.
It’s always special and exciting to walk into the classroom and be introduced by Miss Pam or Miss Alisha or whoever the teacher is: “All right, children, today we have a visitor for Reading Time. Please say hello to Mr. Gold.” I sit in the child-size chair provided and they all cluster in a semicircle around me; the bolder ones practically sitting on my shoes, the shy ones further back, half hidden as they peek at me from behind their friends. The openness and enthusiasm and happy anticipation in the 15 or so innocent little faces looking up at me is wonderful. No formal introduction I’ve ever received before stepping up to a podium to present before a roomful of my peers could possibly be more energizing.
This year I read Oh No! about some animals that fall into a deep, deep hole where a tiger threatens to lunch on them (don’t worry; everything works out OK in the end) and A Library Book for Bear, about a bear who thinks he already has all the books he needs – he has seven – but when he’s taken to the library by his friend Mouse, he learns some important lessons. I show the kids the open pages as I read, using lots of dramatic energy and of course, funny voices, wherever I can. It’s important to keep moving steadily through the book while still encouraging lots of “listener participation!” I think A Library Book for Bear was maybe a little bit too advanced for my preschoolers, but Oh No! was a big hit!
If you are interested in reading next year, call Head Start at (586) 469-5215 and ask to be put on the list. You won’t regret it!
Steve Gold is the director of the Macomb County Department of Health & Community Services.