Since childhood, I have been fascinated with the wonder of books. My parents deserve all the credit for this. I remember my little hand enveloped in my father’s big one as we took our weekly trek to the local library. This is where I learned to borrow what now has accumulated into mountains of books in my lifetime.
Today I have the privilege of volunteering as a Prime Time Reader in Broward County, Florida. This program, developed by the Broward County Public Library system, gently plants tiny seeds that grow into a lifetime love of reading in little children, just as my parents instilled this love in me.
The children I read to come from one-parent homes or homes where both parents work full time to make ends meet, leaving little or no time for reading. This is where I come in, thanks to our wonderful library system!
I am Princess Ann, the Princess of Reading. I come from the Kingdom of Books and my portal is… the public library!
When I walk through the door of the day care center I visit weekly with my books, you cannot imagine the excitement glowing in the eyes of the approximately fifteen to twenty pre schoolchildren I greet. “Princess, Ann! Princess, Ann!” they shout with glee. First, I straighten out my tiara and then I bring out Mr. Owlie, a stuffed, animated owl who sings theses lyrics, while we all join in, “I like reading a book, I can live in all my fantasies! I like reading a book, reading is right for me!” “Who loves to read?” I ask. “We do!” chime the children in delirious lyricism. There is so much exhilaration in the room; you can cut it with a silver butter knife.
“Children, I have been to my portal, the library, and I have some wondrous books to read!” The room is brimming with rapt children clapping and squealing in unison. I smile and show them the new books I have brought. “Remember, every book is like a present because we do not know what is inside until we open it,” I tell them.
Then, I carefully read the title and name of the author of each book to the children. “Why do I tell you who wrote this book?” I ask. “Because someday we might write a book!” they always chant. Do I believe I am launching little authors from this program? With all my heart, I do believe it!
“Readers are leaders.” “Knowledge is power.” These quotes lie etched into my little soul since childhood. They hang invisibly in the air surrounding me because I know if a child does not learn to read before the 3rd grade, the statistics show he or she most probably will never learn to read.
There is much evidence to substantiate these facts. Today, in Florida, we see as many as three retentions in the fifth grade via the No Child Left Behind Program. When you consider someone who should be eleven in the fifth grade, but instead you have a child who is fifteen in the fifth grade, it is overwhelming. It devastates the elder child’s self-esteem and gives them a fear of participating verbally in the classroom. They are afraid they will answer incorrectly and be embarrassed in front of their younger classmates. Many of these children do not even finish high school. Their ultimate path becomes one of crime, causing immeasurable sorrow to their families and costing taxpayers’ untold amounts.
Do I think the library is important to my community? I have only touched on one program that I am personally involved with that is life changing.
Of all my accomplishments, which number many, being the Princess of Reading is high up on my list. Recently one of the little ones I read to exclaimed, “Princess Ann, I saw you at Disney World!” Of course, she did not see me because I was not there, but she did see a Princess from a distance and she pointed out to her parents, “That is the Princess of Reading!”
I am grateful to my public library, which has given me the opportunity to instill a love of reading in so many pre-school children. “Teach a child to read and you can change the world!”
©2010 Ann Page (Contributed to NPBW 9-25-2011 - Thank you, Ann!) :)
Among her numerous talents and accomplishments, Ann Page is the Princess of Reading, who comes to us from the Kingdom of Books. She is also the cofounder of Legacy from the Heart, LLC, an enterprise dedicated to helping people preserve and share their stories.