Attracting new readers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 3, 2016

When I was a very young child, I would do anything to hear just one more story at bedtime. Usually, I could get my grandmother, who most frequently performed this bedtime ritual, to submit to my request.

“The Poky Little Puppy,” “Go, Dog. Go,” and “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” were among my favorites.

When I was a little older, I used to beg my grandmother to let me visit her neighbor, Frances. Frances would read from a series of children’s books that told popular Bible stories, like Jesus feeding the 5,000 or Daniel in the lions’ den.

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When I learned to read, I treasured my trips to the public library, where I would gather in my arms as many books as I could carry to the checkout counter.

At school, I participated in the Accelerated Reader challenge, in which computer tests were given about certain books. Points were awarded which entitled students to special rewards throughout the year.

During my middle school years, I read as many pre-teen horror novels that I could get my hands on, particularly the ever-popular Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine.

Soon after I would graduate to the books of Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

Suspense, mystery, thrillers, horror and detective series were and still are my bailiwick. It doesn’t have to be a New York Times Best Seller. I just like to be pulled into a great story.

Considering my love for reading, few weeks ago, I was asked to visit Burlington Elementary School and read some stories to a cafeteria full of young students in observance of Reading Across America Week.

I was truly honored when Harriette Ramsey, the librarian at the school, called to see if I was interested. She explained that the goal was to get other people from the community to read to the children, since they see their teachers every day.

I didn’t even have to think twice about it.

Books have always been such a large part of my life, even before I could actually read. The thought of possibly enticing just one child to want to pick up a book was enough for me.

When I got to the school that day, Mrs. Ramsey asked me if I had any favorite books I’d like to read. Honestly, I didn’t know what to pick for the kindergartners and first and second graders who would be my audience. When put on the spot, the only book I could remember enjoying in school when I was child was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” I very clearly remember my elementary school librarian reading that to my class several times, as well as some of Eric Carle’s other classics, like “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “The Very Busy Spider.”

Mrs. Ramsey helped me pick out a couple books from the library that seemed to be popular with my target age range: one from the Franklin the Turtle series, and one from a series that was new to me, Howard B. Wigglebottom.

I read to the children during their lunch hour, and I thought most of them would be distracted and I would just be speaking aloud to no one. To my surprise, when I started reading, the cafeteria fell silent and it seemed most of the children were listening intently.

Despite the age and size difference between the youngsters and me, it was a little intimidating standing alone on the cafeteria stage with all those eyes watching me.

When I was finished, the children gave an enthusiastic round of applause, and as I was walking out, one little girl got out of her seat to give me a hug.

While most of the children probably won’t remember my face, I hope they remember that I, as well as many other members of the community, visited them each day during that week to show them how important and fun reading can be.

And hopefully, a few of them decided to make a trip to the school library to check out a book or two.

Michelle Goodman is the managing editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at