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Monday, June 9, 2014

With a Little Help From Our Friends

This may look like your garden variety, impossibly cute teddy bear, but it is actually a sophisticated tool for building readers. This is a Read to Me Bear.

Meet Princess Priscilla, the Read to Me Bear that lives in the children’s area of my library. Priscilla, named for the consort of The King (yes, that King), approaches her role as Read to Me Bear with unflappable calm and a fashion sense that would do Kate Middleton proud. She appears, bright eyed, soft and furry, every day, sitting on her pink tufted throne, ready to be read to by the young people of our neighborhood.

The tag on her paw explains the protocol for a royal reading session:

Her subjects celebrate Princess Priscilla’s birthday every year in January with a storytime of favorite bear stories: The Three Bears, Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and Corduroy. Though she began her rule ten years ago, Princess Priscila remains three years old in TBY (In Teddy Bear Years, teddy bears stay whatever age their child owner wishes.)

So, she’s cute. What does that have to do with reading?

Research has shown that children develop reading fluency best when they read to a nonjudgmental listener. They can relax, focusing on the story instead of their performance, when the listener is someone – or some thing – that is there to simply listen. In reality, this pint-sized bit of regal fluff is a reading powerhouse, turning kids onto books and reading with a furry hug.

Priscilla recently got a new gown and crown, compliments of the Friends of Kingstowne Library. The Friends, like myriad library friends groups everywhere, donate their time to raise funds for cash strapped libraries. In ways large (funding literacy and STEM initiatives, paying for author visits, and summer reading programs) and small – a new dress for a teddy bear –  library friends groups make a difference for readers in their community.

Thank you, Kingstowne Friends! The Princess is most pleased.


E. B. Davis said...

I love this concept, Shari. My kids' grandparents once gave them a "talking" bear who read them stories. A tape was placed in the back of the bear. Its mechanical mouth moved to simulate speaking. We didn't use the bear much. The kids got bored with it immediately.

But a bear that listens is revolutionary. Its hard to read aloud well. Every time I hear my own voice recorded and played back I cringe. I don't think my voice is sounds pleasant. But if children have that nonjudgmental listener, it will help them be good and creative speakers. Acting out characters by changing voices becomes fun. That sense of play, leaving yourself behind, is an important aspect of self actualization and creativity.

KM Rockwood said...

What a good idea! And such a cute bear.

My kids practiced their reading on a patient and loving Newfoundland who served as a backrest as well as a listener and a hyperactive part-Puli mutt who would sit still and look at the pictures intently.

Warren Bull said...

What a good idea! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Shari Randall said...

Hi EB - My children had some of those infernal talking toys too, and I hadn't thought about it until you posted, but of course they were going to get bored with it! And we all want someone to listen to us.

Shari Randall said...

KM- I think a Newfoundland would make a great backrest! The kids who read to our dogs do like to sprawl on them sometimes. And it is funny that the dogs really do seem to listen. I've noticed that the therapy dogs like stories with dogs in them, too.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Warren, Thanks for stopping by on Cute Day!

Barb Goffman said...

Very similar to the Read to A Dog programs I've heard about at a lot of libraries, except the bear at your library won't lick you. Right? Thanks for sharing, Shari.

Kara Cerise said...

What a terrific friends group at your library!

This is such a clever idea. I'm sure the kids love reading to Princess Priscilla.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Barb - Nope, no licking! Or shedding! The only problem we have with the Princess is the number of kids who want to take her home….

Hi Kara, yes, we are so lucky to have such a great Friends group.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I think anything that gets kids to reading is a great idea. I know locally we have dogs that come in, and some schools have older retired people who come in to listen to kids read. It sounds like you have a great Friends of the Library group.

Jim Jackson said...

We could all use that bear in our lives when we are trying new things.

~ Jim