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Ourselves as Young Readers: Staff Round-Up | LiteracyConnections

Joel Nunez

Joel Nuñez is the Literacy Program Director at ExpandED Schools. This is blog is part of our LiteracyConnections blog series, where we explore the bridge between literacy and child development.

Ready Readers is an ExpandED Schools literacy initiative to improve higher-order reading skills for students in 1st-3rd grade. Ready Readers will reach more than 900 students this school year.

Ready Readers recently held a literacy institute for more than 75 after-school program directors, education specialists, teachers and community. One of the day's activities was having participants recreate themselves as young readers using construction paper, pipe cleaners, crayons, markers, scissors, tape and a variety of other art materials. Attendees took turns describing their creations and experiences: some saw reading as punishment, some found it frustrating to read in English, some didn’t like to read until discovering the one book that opened them up to endless possibilities, and some felt reading was a big and fun part of their childhood. 

This activity was so fun, we decided to ask our own ExpandED Schools staff to describe themselves as young readers. Enjoy these reflections! (sans artwork)

75 after-school program directors, education specialists, teachers and community educators attended the Ready Readers literacy training earlier this month. Participants shared their childhood reading experiences in a creative activity.

"Every year I’d spend the whole winter burrowed under the covers in my bed, using every minute of free time to read any paperback I could get my hands on, from Goosebumps to The Baby-Sitters Club to Sweet Valley High. Once the lights were turned off, I’d grab my flashlight and keep at it until my eyes refused to stay open." - Shannon Stagman, Senior Program Director of Evaluation Services

"I remember setting my bedroom up as a library (categorizing books by genre, making my own fake Dewey Decimal System) and forcing all my family members to come check out books." - Katie Brohawn, Senior Director of Research

"I would read anything I could get my hands on. I would read in the park, at my friend’s house—everywhere. I would also spend my summers in my mother’s village in India with piles and piles of books, just reading all the time."
- Anjali Berger, Literacy Manager


"Me as a young reader: reading in bed until way too late at night—mostly British orphan dramas. The best." - Saskia Traill, Senior Vice President, Policy & Research 

"My father was always really strict about bedtime. So naturally, nothing gave me greater pleasure than sneaking a book and a flashlight under the covers. That's right: reading rebel." Rachel Chase, Program Director, Hunter CASE 

“Myself as a young reader: Sitting on the big rock at my bus stop, which is still a little cold from overnight. Reading The Golden Compass and wondering what my daemon (animal companions in the book) would be…maybe a fox or a dog. It’s always a little disappointing when the bus pulls up and I have to stop reading!” - Emma Banay, Design2Learn Program Manager

“Reading was my joy! I would float for hours on the clouds of Mt. Olympus or race through the Machiavellian plots of medievalesque fantasies.” - Elam Lantz, Program Manager

“Both of my parents went to nursing school in 1960s England, so our bookshelves were peppered with old nursing manuals and medical books -- with pictures. After school, I would make myself a cup of instant hot chocolate, put on my favorite comfy yellow sweatpants, and grab a couple of the heaviest books. Equal parts fascinating and gross, I loved learning about the human body by connecting words with images. The only downside was developing a fear of contracting smallpox. (Did I mention the books were old?)” - Therese Workman, Senior Manager, Digital Content Strategies

“I was always most interested in reading non-fiction – stories about people like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Abraham Lincoln just seemed much more interesting because they had really happened. I balanced my reading list out with a healthy dose of The Baby-Sitters Club… perhaps because I had created my own such business and it felt more like market research than fiction reading.” - Jennifer Siaca Curry, Chief Operating Officer

“I was a quiet kid in a tree with any Judy Blume book and a 1-pound bag of Doritos. I’d climb down from the tree after I either finished the book … or the bag of chips.” - Deb Levy, Director of Communications and Marketing

“I read quite a lot of R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. I imagined our world was filled with restless spirits. I consumed Fear Street until I was too afraid to go into basements and attics unaccompanied. Much to my babysitter’s amusement, my mother banned me from reading… well, reading anything featuring the undead.” - Candace Brazier-Thurman, Program Director, ExpandED Options

“I used to drop my backpack at the front door, run up to my room and curl up with a book until dinner time. I made sure all of my homework was finished on the bus so that I would not be interrupted. I read 3-4 books every week. My parents were actually so concerned about the amount I was reading and NOT interacting with real humans, they signed me up for a softball team.” - Marissa Badgley, Programs and Policy Manager 

“As a child, my favorite place in the world was the library. After story time, we were allowed to borrow books. I always walked out with three or four, usually knocking my classmates over to get to whatever story the librarian, Ms. Dillon, just read so I could read it again! As a high school junior, my very first job was at the new branch library (Baisley Park)."- Deborah Taylor, High School/Middle School Program Manager

“Me as a young reader: lying on my stomach and reading the backs of baseball cards and baseball magazine articles on the baseball gods, such as Ted Williams (the ‘Splendid Splinter’), who had perfect eyesight, or Ernie Banks, whose nickname was ‘Mr. Cub’ and who loved to play so much that his motto was ‘let’s play two’ (a double header). Almost all of them had a nickname and a back story to go with it.” - Chris Whipple, Vice President, Programs

“As a kid, I dreamed about libraries and reading every book in the place. My small village had a monthly visit from the book mobile with about a half-shelf of children’s books. My school’s K-8 library was a converted utility closet. In my 8th grade year, the school opened its new library and I basically moved in, making up for lost time.” - Jama Toung, Chief Development Officer 

“I spent summers sitting by my aunt’s above-ground pool in suburban New England, absorbing golden rays of sunshine along with mysteries, classic American literature, and my favorite, The Baby-Sitters Club series. I took breaks to cool off in the pool, climb rocks or fish with my cousins and brother. It was our version of summer camp." - Laura Scheck, Senior Director, Capacity Building

“As a young reader, I developed a love for reading by diving head first into a creepy book in a dark corner of the local library on rainy day. My days have been full of sunshine ever since.” - Domingo Cruz, Program Manager 



 *What kind of young reader were you? Let us know in the Comments!


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