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Building a love for literacy: Victoria interviews teacher who got her hooked on reading

Posted at 6:25 AM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 08:58:50-05

Is there something you’re wildly passionate about? Maybe it’s a hobby or a unique talent. Either way, there was likely a mentor or teacher involved somewhere along the way who introduced you to this new love.

For me, that hobby is reading, and that teacher was Ms. Marcy LeMaster.

I was entering the third grade and my family had just moved into a new home, which meant a new school.

I was assigned to Ms. LeMaster’s class and instantly recognized reading would become my best friend.

“Reading is everything. Not just education, certainly education, but everything in your life is improved if you know how to read and like to read,” LeMaster said during a Zoom interview.

I was attending Thomas Drummond Elementary School, located in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. It was an up-and-coming neighborhood at the time, made up of low to middle income families.

“I had inherited a bunch of children who either couldn’t read, didn’t want to read, very reluctant readers, very few engaged readers. So getting them involved in books, letting them know books are funny, books are scary, you’re allowed to laugh while you’re reading a book. That was actually an eye opener for some kids. You like scary movies? Let me give you a scary book,” LeMaster said with a laugh.

Ms. LeMaster would teach at Drummond for 17 years, then went on to a new job, where she actually taught teachers how to teach children to read.

“What I tell teachers I teach is – you can’t give a kid a book that doesn’t like to read and say here, read this you’re going to like it. You have to read it with them. You’ve got to show them. And don’t sit at your desk and read like this, get up, walk around, be the characters, let them know books are alive. And even if the book is too hard for them to read by themselves, if you have a copy and they have a copy, they’ll get it. And it changes from a low reader to a medium to a high reader so quickly. So much faster than you would ever think. But when you give a reluctant reader a book, and say ‘oh, you’re going to love this,’ no, they’re not. They’re reluctant, you can’t tell them that, you have to show them. You have to be with them,” she said.

Our conversation was confirmation, the reading we did in the classroom 25 years ago set the stage for my career. I love to read, I love to write, I love to meet new people and share their story via video and words. This career has taken me to many new places and taught me many new things I otherwise would’ve never discovered.

“It’s the best thing in the world when you see a child realize that ‘oh my gosh, I can go anywhere, I can be anywhere, I can be with anyone, right here in all these books,’ it’s the reason to be in the classroom,” LeMaster said.

This is just one example of why the Scripps Howard Foundation launched its “If You Give a Child a Book…” childhood literacy campaign.

It puts books in the hands of children in local low-income schools and non-profits.

To learn more about the campaign and play a part, visit