As a child, my parents read to me every day. I must have loved it because they never read to me as much as I wanted them to. Early on, I figured out that books took me places I wanted to go and if I wanted to access what was in them whenever I wanted, I'd better learn to read myself. So I started teaching myself to read. I have a memory of a moment when I was four, visiting an eight-year-old girl named Brucia. We were standing together, looking out a window in New York City, that gave us a view of rooftops below us that were filled with billboards. I asked Brucia, wistfully, "Can you read everything you see?" She assured me she could. My thought, which I never shared was, "If only, if only, I could read everything I saw." It seemed like an impossible dream. But I was motivated and I achieved that goal early in life.
I became a fluent independent reader. I found reading was so effortless that I felt as if I inhaled stories with no awareness of the process of reading. When I was eight, I was in class immersed in a story about a dog carrying messages in a war. He was wounded but still running. I could feel his pain and promptly passed out cold, face down in my book. That year my father, who still enjoyed reading to me, began sharing The Secret Garden. I so identified with Mary, that I became terrified of what would happen to her if she were discovered trespassing in the secret, locked garden and I made him stop reading the book to me. When I was ten, I decided I had to face my fears and read the book myself. So The Secret Garden represented a milestone in my personal development. Many years later, as an adult and a children's book author, a newly illustrated copy of The Secret Garden arrived at my door. I had just returned from a trip to Yorkshire and reread the book in one sitting. It amazed me that Frances Hodgson Burnett had included a Yorkshire dialect in the speech of some of the characters. Some would think a strange dialect would be a stumbling block to an American child. But I have absolutely no recollection of that. Clearly it didn't stop me from meaning-making of the story because I read the book so many times as a child. When a new world is opened to a child through a book, she doesn't need to understand every word. There were some people who felt that American children wouldn't have a problem with the British version of Harry Potter.
February 1, is World Read Aloud Day. All over the world adults and children will be sharing books by reading them aloud. They are adding the human voice to the voices of authors. The best children's authors know how to "speak child." This doesn't mean that they water down the language. Indeed it is just the opposite-- they use carefully crafted, rich language. When we authors of iNK Think Tank write our Nonfiction Minutes, we create an audio file so you can hear our real voices reading our work aloud. That way their fascinating content is available to children who are challenged by reading, including children for whom English is a second language.
February 1 is also the beginning of Black History Month. So you can listen to Emmy award-winning author, Janus Adams read aloud her Nonfiction Minute, "Why is February Black History Month?" Just click on the player. We are also including her reading and a couple of others in the brand new iNK Nonfiction Minute Podcast. So you have a choice; you can read along with Janus on the Nonfiction Minute or you can download our first Podcast from the iTunes Store. Both are free for your enjoyment.