Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Book Chose You?

photo by Becky Meyer

Carmen Agra Deedy, a master storyteller and award-winning author, held her audience of upper elementary school boys and girls rapt as she told a scary, funny story from her Cuban heritage--one of the Juan Bobo stories. One boy laughed so hard he rolled on the floor next to Carmen's chair. Kids (and adults), whose usual attention spans max out at 10 minutes, sat captivated by the story for 45. No batteries, videos, flashing lights or noises other than Carmen's voice held our attention at the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival. Such is the power of story.

At the luncheon, Carmen told her personal story. We laughed and cried as she told how her older sister, needing to be rid of 6-year-old Carmen for awhile, shoved her into the public library for the first time. Carmen was not a reader. The library lady interrogated Carmen, unsure whether this little Cuban girl transplanted to Georgia could be entrusted with the library's books. The library lady gave stern directions to the children's room and strict orders about what to do there. She told properly terrified Carmen that the right book would choose her. What did that mean? Carmen wondered.

Carmen entered the room and ran her fingers along the spines of the books on the shelves. One book was not flush on the shelf, and when Carmen tried to right it, it fell onto the floor. Is this the book? The one that's choosing me?

Turns out it was. Charlotte's Web, usually not checked out to those so young, grabbed Carmen's heart, mind, and imagination. She was hooked on reading, stories, and libraries. (Hear Carmen tell her growing up stories in her recording, Growing Up Cuban.)

November is National Family Literacy Month. Enjoy reading and telling stories with family and friends! And tell me, what book chose you?

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