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State's first lady champions reading

March 10, 2001

State's first lady champions reading



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Frances Hughes Glendening, Maryland's first lady, read to about 65 children and adults Saturday at the Washington County Public Library.

Glendening, a literacy advocate, is reading to children throughout the state to demonstrate the importance and joy of reading and to remind adults how crucial reading with children is.

Glendening first read what she described as one of her favorite books, "Giraffe and a Half" by Shel Silverstein.

She took audience feedback. When she'd mention a skunk, for example, she'd ask if others had seen or smelled a skunk.

"Now what is going to happen?" she asked at one point.

"I don't know," an eager listener shouted back.

She complimented the girls and boys laying by her feet, the better to see her and the book.

"I like the smiles, by the way," she told the beaming children. "Very nice."

Following her lead, the children did a stretch before attempting to read along with the second book, "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie."

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Why does she like this book?

Because, she said, "I am a champion cookie maker."

When she was finished she told the group: "Thank you all for coming. You did a great, great job."

Before the reading, she made a few personal comments.

She is from Cumberland, she said.

"I feel like I'm home. I'm definitely a Western Maryland woman," she said.

She said she is a lifelong reader, Since she turned 50 recently, she said, that means she has been reading for "a long time." The children nodded agreement.

She told people to check out a calendar available at the library called "15 For the Future." The calendar, which will soon be available at all county libraries, asks that all children to be read to for at least 15 minutes daily.

The calendar has places to write the names of books read and the time spent reading. It also lists suggested activities.

The calendar reminds adults that reading to a child doesn't have to take hours; it can be done in just 15 minutes, Glendening said. That counters those claiming they don't have time to read to a child, she said.

And the reading doesn't have to be by the child's parent. There is nothing wrong with other relatives - be it a godmother, a grandmother or an older sister - doing the reading, she said.

It's a worthy cause, said Mary Baykan, director of the Washington County Free Library System.

Research is increasingly showing that reading to children, especially before kindergarten, is the most important factor in getting them to enjoy reading for the rest of their lives, Baykan said. This is because they learn to enjoy not just hearing stories and reading some themselves but also to love the sound of words, she said.

Glendening also honored a local student.

Evan Austin of Washington County received attention and applause for a piece of his art that is included in the calendar.

Austin, 6, is in first grade at Pleasant Valley Elementary School.

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