Several dozen pre-school children came to Akron Children’s Hospital to listen, sing, follow the leader, and celebrate all things literary with children’s book author Rosemary Wells.
Wells, the author and illustrator of such beloved picture books as Noisy Nora, Yoko, Bunny Cakes and the Max and Ruby brother/sister bunny series, came to Akron to lead workshops sponsored by Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science.
The Daily Dose of Reading: Partnering to Promote Early Literacy workshop was held May 18 at Akron Children’s and sponsored by the hospital and the Akron-Summit County Public Library.
The story time preceding the evening workshop demonstrated all the ways parents and caregivers can make books and learning fun and engaging for the youngest of learners.
Wells began by reading her book Bunny Money to the children. She opened with the question, “How many of you know Max and Ruby?” and dozens of little hands shot skyward.
The children stayed engaged as Wells sprinkled in several other questions during the story. She even tucked in some math, asking the children to keep a count of how many dollars Max and Ruby spent on themselves and how much was left to spend on a birthday gift for their grandmother.
She concluded with a few historical and pop cultural references more familiar to the moms and dads in attendance. Showing her illustrations of dollar bills at the end of the book, she said she opted to use the names and images of some of her personal heroes, such as Dr. Jonas Salk, Julia Child, Jesse Owens, Frida Kahlo, and Marie Curie, on currency of her own design while, of course, making them look like bunnies.
Following Wells, Anne-Marie Savoie, an early childhood librarian, and Laura McFalls, early childhood specialist, with the Akron-Summit County Public Library, got the children moving and using all their senses.
They got everyone’s attention with a few deep breaths and the blow of a wooden train whistle – first asking the anticipatory question, “Does anyone want to guess what this will sound like?”
The fun continued with the children doing sign language to the lyrics of “The More We Get Together” and then singing the nursery rhyme, “This Old Man.” Rather than just reading aloud, Savoie and McFalls helped bring the words to life by placing matching images on a felt board and using hand motions – ranging from knocking gestures to the rolling of their hands.
The story time wrapped up with an Eric Carle book and the children relished the opportunity to mimic the sounds and gestures of a penguin, seal, giraffe, monkey and several other animals.
“This is great,” said Shannon Schwoeble, of Barberton, who brought her 18-month-old daughter to the event. “Cathryn is a big fan of the ‘Max and Ruby’ show on the Nick Jr. TV network.”
Kim Lamm, of Girard, said her 4-year-old son, John, relates to Max, “especially his sense of adventure.”
Megan Postak, of Wadsworth, was thrilled to have Wells sign her well-read copy of Yoko, a story about a kitten teased by classmates for bringing sushi to school in her lunchbox.
“I read it to my class every year,” said Postak, a kindergarten teacher and mother of Miles, age 2. “It’s a great book to discuss diversity and kindness and appreciating differences in people. I also like that Ms. Wells uses animal characters in her books. I think kids relate to them.”