Maria Liranzo is an experienced actress and a professional voice talent. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two young sons.
HAPPY: How important to you is reading as a parent of young children?
Liranzo: It is important enough that we packed baby books in our hospital bags when we were going to deliver both our boys. We have been reading just about every day since.
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.
Liranzo: I’m not sure. I remember my parents read a lot, usually the newspaper, the Bible, or other religious material. I don’t recall being read to very much. Once I could read, however, they were very encouraging and supportive. I got a library card and read everything that caught my interest.
HAPPY: What types of books bring the greatest delight to you and your children? Do you have favorite titles, authors or genres?
Liranzo: Both my boys enjoy reading serial books. The 11 year-old enjoys fantasy and books about sport/sports figures. He enjoyed the Percy Jackson series and has gotten me hooked on Harry Potter and most recently, The Hunger Game series. My 7 year-old enjoys books about animals, mythology, the Magic Tree House series. Recently he had us track down the “Power Boys” series after buying one at the library clearance sale.
HAPPY: Do you look for ways to extend the learning beyond the books with activities, field trips, discussions, media or other endeavors?
Liranzo: Yes, after my little one became interested in Greek and Roman mythology we went to the art museum and looked at the pottery and statues of the gods. Because he enjoys nature books his aunt got him a bird-watching book and binoculars and we go to local parks. Also, we go see most of the film adaptations of books we’ve enjoyed.
HAPPY: What are the greatest obstacles to spending time together with books? How do you handle those challenges and/or how might you suggest others do so now? Is this an area where you would welcome advice?
Liranzo: I do welcome advice. With sports, after school activities, homework, time with friends and family, screen time (TV/video games/computer) and work, reading as a leisure activity sometimes suffers.
HAPPY: As you go through the day with your children, can you see the influence of books you share? Do your children mention the stories or certain characters?
Liranzo: When they are excited about something they’ve just read or learned it can make for some interesting dinner/car conversation. It’s sometimes hard to keep my older son from giving away too much plot information when he passes on a book. It can also get them interested in some related topics and lead to other books or activities.
HAPPY: Are there times when your children seem to be applying lessons learned from books in your daily lives? Do you notice them making connections between books and real world experiences?
Liranzo: Because the Magic Tree House series sets stories in specific moments in history, it has brought up many discussions, most recently about the damage caused by earthquakes vs. tornados, both of which have also been in the news recently.
HAPPY: How important is the public library in your family literacy practices? How valuable do you believe public libraries are today?
Liranzo: They are fairly important. As a family we are trying purchase fewer books and borrow more – for economic, environmental and storage space reasons. My older son will often wait for me at the library after school, though he is more likely to use the computers and do his homework than go through the stacks. I think libraries are especially important in economically depressed areas where people may not be able to afford many books, assuming there is a local bookstore, or own a home computer.
HAPPY: Reading is, of course, one component of effective literacy. How do you believe parents most effectively guide children towards greater confidence and skill in reading, writing, speaking and listening? How important is the parent’s example in all of these areas?
Liranzo: I don’t know that you can overestimate the importance of reading to children and of letting your children see you read, as well as having conversations about what you read. Once a child is in school, it is also important to communicate with teachers and support and enhance what’s happening in the classroom with books and/or family trips and activities. So far, most of their writing, which is funny, sweet and very evocative, has been for school. I trust they will continue to grow as writers and communicators. Answering these questions has started me thinking about how we might better nurture this aspect of their literacy.
HAPPY: Please share any remaining thoughts in a personal summary. Include, if you can, a comment or two about the connection between family literacy and love.
Liranzo: Reading has enriched my life more than I can say. It has made me feel – joy, sadness, anger, fear, curiosity. It has made me laugh out loud in public places and cry as well. It has informed me and provided me with many topics of conversation. Reading to my children when they were little and with them now as a family has been a great bonding experience. Having my children recommend books to me has been wonderful. A love of reading is one of the greatest gifts my husband and I could share with our sons.