This has to be the best TLA conference I have ever attended. So many of my favorite authors are speaking, I have been in Heaven listening to them. Anthony Horowitz, Garth Nix, K.M. Grant (who is hilarious,) Rick Riordan, Denise Fleming and Rosemary Wells have all spoken with fervor about their writing and their readers.
Wells is known for her commitment to children's literacy. Her "Read to your Bunny" campaign rolled out across the country a few years ago. Today she passionately discussed and laid out the education challenges facing our schools and our nation. Young children are struggling more than ever in school. The reasons are numerous and familiar to most of us. Rather than continue to bewail the whys and wherefores of the issue, she used a brilliant analogy to explain what we need to do.
She pointed out that if a building was on fire and hundreds of people needed to be saved it would take the clear voice of a fireman, issuing simple commands to evacuate everyone to safety. Instead of dithering about discussing why the fire started and how fires really are a problem for certain kinds of structures, the important thing is to get safely away.
Her book My Shining Star: Raising a Child who is Ready to Learn was written with input from teachers and librarians all around the country. Wells lists ten virtues which parents should promote to prepare their child for the most wonderful adventure of all, education.
She addresses parents in the preface:
All children bring to school what they learn at home.
This book is about creating a home full of harmony
and the preparation of a successful child.
You are your child's first teacher.
Her virtues include Respect, Listening, Patience, Trust, Work, Honesty, Time ("Children spell love T - I - M - E,") Reading, Writing, and Habits.
This little book is only 13 pages long and only has about 25 words (at most) per page. Wells's lovely rabbit drawings warmly illustrate each virtue. She lays out a path for raising a child who is ready for school. It seems so simple and so obvious but so many children arrive in Kindergarten ill-equipped to learn.
If you know a family with young children, present them with a copy of this tiny treasure.
This little book is going to be my gift to new parents along with Goodnight Moon and a Mother Goose book.
Wells related a story about a principal she knows who works tirelessly to awaken parents to the needs of their children. He tells them to "Grow up! Pay attention! Be Responsible for your child!" I did not know that, nationally, only 26% of all parents attend their kids' Open House or Back to School nights.
The alarm has sounded and Rosemary Wells has given us ten simple steps to help children get ready to learn.