Happy Reading

HAPPY Reading is pleased to feature luminaries in the field of literacy education. Here under Profiles, you’ll find the spotlight on an author or illustrator, an adult learner, a past or present parent of young children, a stand-out educator, and a stand-out reader who also happens to be a celebrity. We hope you enjoy their stories and that theirs enrich your own.

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Celebrity Interview: LeVar Burton

You know him as an actor and director. From his earliest role as Kunta Kinte in the consciousness-raising mini-series, Roots, in 1977… to his role as the blind, VISOR-wearing Georgi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation… to his 25 years as host of PBS’ Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton has used his gifts to entertain, educate and inspire others. He spoke with Angie Miles of HAPPY Reading about his personal relationship with books, and what he sees as he looks to the future of literacy.

HAPPY: What do you remember about your first book or an early book that you enjoyed?

Whenever I’m asked this question, I always refer back to the experience I remember… when I got what reading was about…in terms of it being a tool for transporting me out of Sacramento, California. And that book was Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. And what I remember most about that experience wasn’t just getting caught up in the lives of the characters in that novel, but I remember distinctly how sad I was when I came to the last word in the last paragraph on the last page. And to this day, when I’m reading a good novel, I consciously slow down when I come towards the end, knowing that I’m going to leave a world that I’ve become quite attached to.



Prolific Author: Peter Reynolds

Image Reynolds-Courtesy-Gretje-Ferguson

I was born in Weston, Ontario, Canada on a cold, snowy March day - the 16th to be exact. Funny, so was my brother, Paul. Yup, my twin brother. My BIG brother - 14 whole minutes older than me, although the way Paul and I see it - we are the exact same age. One egg split into two at the very same second. Nifty, eh?

Paul and I grew up in a very creative house with lots of noise as there were seven of us packed into our little house.

Our parents were accountants, but after work my dad was busy building bookcases in his garage-turned-woodshop and mum was busy reading books chosen from the shelves of the hand-made bookcases made by, you guessed it, Dad.

All that book lovin' rubbed off on us. Helped too that our big sister, Jane, loved to read aloud to us. My favorites were the Charles Dickens books - especially Oliver Twist. Books took us places and allowed us to time travel.





Parent Profile: Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland

Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland is a licensed psychologist and an associate research psychologist at UCLA.  She is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins Medical School.  Her area of specialty is mental hygiene and she has worked extensively to understand the effects of community violence on the long-term well-being of urban youngsters.  Dr. Cooley-Strickland lives in California with her husband and their two, young daughters.

HAPPY: How important to you is reading as a parent of young children?

Cooley-Strickland: My husband and I believe that reading to and for our daughters is a critical component of being good parents. Our goal is to teach them to be confident readers who LOVE to read independently. Doing so would open up a lifetime opportunities for them.

HAPPY: Have your feelings, attitudes and actions regarding books grown out of your own exposure in your childhood home? Explain in what ways it did or did not.

Cooley-Strickland: Yes, in large part but not completely. I recall loving to read as a child. Once I discovered authors who resonated with me, I felt understood and able to escape to my own world. My family traveled a lot and we spent TONS of hours driving in the car. Time would speed by while reading my favorite authors' books. I can recall being disappointed once the books would end. Then I discovered that I could search for the authors' prior publications and read those books too. My love of reading as a child while in the car is part of the reason I dissuade my daughters from using electronics in the car today.


Adult Learner: Felix

Felix is an adult learner in the LifeWorks Literacy program in Austin, Texas.  He shares his thoughts on becoming more literate in this exchange with HAPPY Reading.  Here we are using the assumed name "Felix" is to protect the learner’s privacy.

HAPPY: What led you to decide to continue with your education in this way?

FELIX: LifeWorks Literacy was recommended to me by another agency to help me learn to read and write better. 

HAPPY: What was challenging or frustrating for you before beginning this new chapter in your life?

FELIX: It was hard for me to understand things because I couldn’t read well and I couldn’t write well.



Featured Educator: Sarah Wilder

HAPPY: What are your earliest memories of books and reading? Did you have any favorite authors, books or characters? What did you like about them? Did your childhood experiences with books influence you in your teaching, your parenting or both? If so, how?
Have there been books, authors or characters who have had a profound effect on you as a person (historically and/or currently)?

Wilder: My earliest memory of books and reading was having my mother read to us on Sunday afternoons as I child. I loved hearing the sound of her voice and how she would engage us when discussing whatever it was we had read together. I've continued this tradition from my childhood on Sundays, as well as most nights, with my own two sons. With my older son, our favorite author to read together the last couple of years has been Barbara Parks and her Junie B. Jones series. These are hysterical and such a great way for him to make those personal text to self connections since he has quite the sassy, but sweet little personality just like Junie B. We've started the read the Zach File series this year together. My two year old just loves any book about babies or monkeys so we read quite the assortment!







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