'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 22 August 2009

Amy Watson's Love of Literacy Blasts Off!

Who is this talented person? Amy Watson

Where can you take a squiz at her stuff? www.literacylaunchpad.blogspot.com and www.literacylaunchpad.com

What is her story? I’m from the Chicago area originally, but moved to Nashville, TN shortly after my husband and I married six years ago. We have one son, Isaac, who is almost 14 months old now, and we’re in the very early stages of adopting two children from Ethiopia.

I spend most of my days at home with Isaac. I do Literacy Launchpad lessons one day a week, and the rest of my time is spent working on formatting Literacy Launchpad lessons to be made available to the masses!

I also spend my time blogging, working on adoption fundraising and paperwork, doing the wife and mom thing, and helping my husband out with his production company (I get to play the part of production coordinator from time to time).

Why is she so impassioned about literacy and children’s literature? It’s fun! That’s why I fell in love with children’s literature in the first place. I just love it! And I believe that reading literally can change a person’s life.

All the clich├ęs you hear about reading are true. It’s power! And to develop a love of reading at an early age is truly the beginning of a blessed life (in my opinion). I believe we could solve all the world’s problems if we could just teach the world to read… to love reading… and then give everyone access to plenty of great books! Seriously.

What inspired her to create the Literacy Launchpad? See answer to previous question. Ha. Ha. Well all that and the fact that I wanted to do something I love.

I was working in day care while going to college. I had never worked at a day care centre and wasn’t familiar with the enrichment programs they offer to families (music, computers, Spanish).

I saw the children getting so excited about going to these programs each week. It was crazy! And I began imagining how cool it would be to see them get that excited about going to hear a story… That’s when Literacy Launchpad was conceived, and the course of the rest of my college career was altered.

What does the Literacy Launchpad blog actually entail? I created the Literacy Launchpad blog with the intention of it being a place I could communicate with parents, and they could stay informed of what we were doing in class and see photos and such (since I never even get to meet most of them).

I came to realize that the people who were coming to visit my blog weren’t the parents, though. They were other parents, teachers, readers, early literacy enthusiasts, etc. I still post about the weekly lessons I do with my students, and I hope my parents check it out from time to time. But I also hope these posts provide inspiration for other parents, teachers, grandparents, homeschoolers… whomever!

I share what I’m learning and discovering about early literacy, I offer tips when I can, and now that I have my son, I post a lot about what I’m doing with him to try to cultivate a love of reading in our family.

What happens at Literacy Launchpad’s reading meetings for two to five year olds? Each Literacy Launchpad session is about 30 minutes of pure reading fun!

We start out by re-reading our story from the previous session. I love hearing all the details they remember; they always amaze me. Then we read our new story for the week. We discuss the story after we read it, and often while we’re reading it (‘cause I’m not a stickler for silence during a read-aloud).

After our discussion, I always have a fun activity planned for us. My goal is to give them a meaningful experience with each piece of literature we discover. I want them to associate reading with fun and enjoyment; I want them to learn pre-reading skills that will help them when they get to kindergarten; and I want them to remember what they read and be motivated to discover books on their own! The activities I do with my students are designed with these goals in mind.

Why does she do all this? Well, in the words of Mo Willems, “First I look at my mortgage, and that inspires me.” Ha. Ha.

I do like being able to contribute what little bit of money I do to my family’s finances. But what I love even more is getting to work with kids. I love laying the foundations for a skill that will permeate and affect every aspect of their life. I love seeing them enjoy a quality story. I love hearing them ask me to re-read their favourites again and again. I seriously feel like I have the coolest, most rewarding job! I can’t believe I get to do what I do!

How long has she been a teacher? Probably 10+ years. I’ve been teaching preschoolers since I was in high school.

What does she enjoy most about being a teacher? Hanging out with kids! They’re the coolest! So honest, so candid…

If she couldn’t be a teacher, what would she be? This is a tough question. I really have never imagined being anything else. I guess maybe I would be a writer.

Does she think modern children’s literature changed in the past decade? The major change I have seen in kid lit recently is the diversity and creativity in the writing and illustrations. I feel like authors are just getting more and more clever.

You see people buying children’s books for adults more and more, and it’s not necessarily for nostalgia. It’s because children’s literature can be enjoyed on so many levels now. There’s that humor in so much of kid lit these days that young children don’t even understand. It’s kind of like when you watch a Pixar movie, and you’re laughing at stuff that your kids don’t really get.

What does she love most about encouraging reading in young children? I love seeing their excitement and anticipation over discovering a new story each week. I love hearing them share their ideas and opinions about a story after we’ve read it. I love seeing their little brains grow, on both a small (week to week) scale, and a big (year to year) scale. I love knowing that I’m giving them a lifetime skill.

…Have I mentioned how much I love my job? Hee!

What books did she read as a child? It’s funny that you ask that, because while I was read to and did read myself when I was a child, part of what fuels my passion for doing what I do is that I wasn’t a huge bookworm when I was younger. I wasn’t savvy to the treasures of books and reading held till I grew up, sadly. And now I wish I had someone in my life when I was younger that would have encouraged me to read more.

Some of my favourite books when I was younger were Jack Prelutsky poems. I loved reading, memorizing and reciting these. I still have quite a few still stuck permanently in my noggin. “No I won’t turn orange if I eat this orange, so don’t you give me that…”

My mom used to read us a lot of the Berenstein Bear books, and I always loved those. I loved looking at the list of all the books in the series on most of the back covers, and I would dream of owning them all someday!

Some other favourites were Mercer Mayer books, Your Till Niagra Falls (more poetry), the Sweet Valley Twins series (as I got a little older), and I will always remember one of my school librarians reading Caps for Sale and loving it. I can remember everything about the way she read it, and I find myself emulating her when I read it to my students now.

What are five of her favourite children’s books? Only five? Tough! Okay, these are five of my favourites to read aloud to my students:

Caps For Sale
The Incredible Book Eating Boy
The Little Mouse
The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear
The Napping House

Ouch! That’s hard! Can I give you like five more lists? I have so many other favourites, for so many various reasons!

What is it about children’s books that fascinates her? The way they stick with you. It’s like Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail, “When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading does…”

What five words best sum her up? I hate having to describe myself. This is going to be awful…

Neat (as in, I like things clean and tidy)
Busy (always doing too much)
Smart (I would like to think so, at least)

What advice does she have for parents on helping kids to read? Don’t force it! Just make reading an easy and appealing option around your house. Let books be a natural part of everything you do (bedtime, playtime, vacations, trips to the grocery store), and show your child that you value reading yourself. It’s not important when your child starts reading, it’s important how much they enjoy reading.

Visit Amy’s absolutely sensational blog where you can buy a reading t-shirt – super cute and vital to help spread an important message. All funds raised go to Amy’s adoption fund.