Volunteers from the California Retired Teachers’ Association (Cal RTA) read aloud to kids at the Merced branch of the Merced County Public Library, located at 2100 O Street, during Story Time on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.
On Saturday, Jan. 22, 3-year-old Marin, along with her mother, listened intently to the story, “The Mitten” by Jan Brett. It was read by retired teacher Bette Woolstenhulme with the assistance of Nelda Schofield, her sister, who is also a retired teacher.
Woolstenhulme told the Times, “We chose the story because of the snow.”
During her career, Woolstenhulme taught kindergarten and Special Ed for the Atwater School District and was a Superintendent and Principal, as well. Schofield taught kindergarten and grades 1 through 3 at the Snelling Merced Falls Elementary School.
As long-time teachers, they know the benefits of reading aloud to young children, even if the children can’t fully understand what is being said. Being read to gives kids the skills they need for when they begin to read by themselves.
In even the earliest months of their lives, being read to can help children with language acquisition and by stimulating the part of the brain that processes language.
Observing teachers read them stories also shows children that reading is accomplished by focusing on the text from left to right and turning pages to continue. Hearing words spoken aloud can expose children to new words and phrases that they may not have heard.
Woolstenhulme told the Times, “In ‘The Mitten’, the main character, a boy, wants his grandmother to knit him white mittens so he can go out and play in the snow.
“He loses one of the mittens in the snow, and animals seeking warmth find the mitten and as the mitten stretches to accommodate them, they go inside, one by one.
“Eventually, a mouse tickles the bear, and the bear sneezes. All the animals fly out of the mitten, and the boy brings home the mitten he now retrieves, which he had previously lost.”
As she read, Woolstenhulme asked Marin questions appropriate for a 3-year-old about the animals, such as about the bear sneezing. Marin’s answers showed she was understanding.
After the story was over, the teachers sang a song called “Have You Seen My Missing Mitten?” and Marin won a free book in the drawing. She delightedly chose “Curious George Goes Camping”.
Schofield told the Times, “After the story, there is an activity, such as a sorting game or a coloring page. Each child puts their name in the drawing for the free book.”
Several retired teacher volunteers are currently enjoying reading aloud to kids at the library on Saturdays, one of whom is Shirley Vaughn-Hulbert, Director of the Cal RTA Reading Program.