Families Read Together at Northport

“We’re listening to sounds of the thirties,” Lisa announced as the group settled into their seats.  With that, the last session of the Together Book Club began.

You may remember back in July when I visited the Brentwood Public Library to sit in on their Together Book Talk for Kids and Parents. Now the Northport-East Northport library is finishing up the six week parent/child book group that is funded by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities. Children’s librarian Lisa Herskowitz co-hosted the series with local scholar and storyteller, Heather Forest.

The themes of the weekly discussions were Being American, Courage and Freedom. Pictured here is a soap carving that participant Liam B made. He was inspired by reading The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, one of the six featured titles. That was Liam’s favorite book because it “had good details.” He, like all the other children who participated, got to keep a copy of their favorite book that was used in the six week program.

The title the group discussed this week was The Friendship by Mildred D. Taylor, the 1988 Coretta Scott King award winner.

“In stories we often learn from the wise man, but we also learn from the fool,” Heather said. “We don’t see the best of human nature (in this book), but we do see the palette of possibility.”

Under the thoughtful discussion leadership of Lisa and Heather, the group explored topics such as the book’s examination of racism in the 1930’s and the author’s ability to capture a rural, southern accent on paper. Regarding the vernacular, one young participant noted: “It’s not like a New Yorker’s kind of talk.”

The evening ended with a “Turn and Talk” – an exchange of ideas between parent child partners. Lisa asked the ten parent/child pairs (and most of the children were boys) to discuss how the six week experience “changed their feelings about reading, books, and each other.” While I couldn’t hear what was being exhanged in the “Turn and Talk,” I could see that it was heartfelt.

Interested in hosting a Together Book Talk for Kids and Parents at your library? The next application deadline for the grant is May 15, 2012.

A Story Makes a Good Container – Snippets from “The Magic of Words”

“Talking to you is like talking to thousands,” Heather Forest told the audience at this morning’s workshop “The Magic of Words” at SCLS.

The audience she was referring to was – of course – librarians. Librarians are the people with “positional power,” the “public intellectuals.” After the audience recovered from this high praise, we opened our minds and imaginations to Heather’s thoughtful presentation.

Libraries played a large role in Heather’s early life. She read comics, which her parents considered frivolous. So the family made a deal: if Heather checked out one book from the library every week, she would be allowed to continue with her comics. Heather marched down to her public library and made her way to the mythology section. She only veered from that section when a librarian steered her to the 398.2’s; Heather’s been there ever since.

Heather hates the word illiterate. “Every child comes into the world pre-literate.” She went on to point out how children read faces, read their parents’ tone of voice, read the clouds. They are living in a world of communication before they ever learn to read or write.

Today the audience learned how to discover the bones of a story, and just as importantly, how to memorize them. Through a series of exercises, we went into our own special memories where information stored in stories is easily retrieved. Once we saw the “movie” of a story in our minds, it was there for us to recall with relative ease.

Many librarians left the workshop wanting more. Heather mentioned she is interested in conducting more in-depth workshops for libraries by zone, as she did in the Huntington zone this past winter. If your zone is interested, please contact Heather Forest.

Heather Forest visits Nesconset

On Thursday, August 25th, Heather Forest performed in the community room of the Smithtown Library’s Nesconset Branch to an appreciative audience of children and parents. According to Christine Dengel, children’s librarian trainee at the Smithtown Library, Heather got the audience participating right from the get go. “Everyone was basically a storyteller,” Christine reported, and then went on to say the following:

Heather incorporates various musical instruments into all of her stories, so they can be appreciated as ballads.  In one moment she’ll be singing and strumming her guitar, and then she’ll immediately shift gears and her voice becomes one of the characters in the story.   The audience laughed every time Heather imitated the squeaking mouse.  This was especially true for the circular tales like The Turnip and The Little Red Hen, which can become tedious in their repetition.  Not true with Heather; she brought them both to life with music and humor.   Even those of us who cannot sing were able to join in the music.  We’d clap to keep the rhythm, so we were the percussion instruments.  Then of course everyone clapped at the end because it was a fantastic performance.

To learn from this internationally known storyteller firsthand, join us on September 14th for Heather’s presentation The Magic of Words: A Storytelling Skills Workshop at SCLS. The program begins promptly at 9:30am.