I am so excited to share a recent interview with Julie Cavacco, author of a new children's book, "My Worst Best Friend." She is a Children's Librarian (12 yrs) and former substitute (15 yrs). Julie has become dedicated to getting the right book into a student's hands. She says, "There is so much self esteem wrapped up into when and how we start reading. I have seen the natural, and not necessarily bad, competition of first graders talking about how they can read Harry Potter. The delayed reader can't join in on that conversation, and eventually, they notice the difference, which effects self esteem and eventually classroom behavior."
Julie's own two kids, now adults, were not early dedicated readers, but, she says, they had the skills. "I've seen them, as teenagers, ignore electronics with all the bells and whistles in favor of a good book. Now, they can join in on conversations, because reading has bolstered their vocabularies.
"We, as a population, tend to respect the well read. I want everyone to have that respect and self respect."
Hi, Julie! So happy to have you as a guest on the blog today. Words from the Heart, as you may know, was started because I wanted to show the power of words - how they can heal, bring hope and connect us to each other. So, when I learned about your book for children, “My Worst Best Friend,” I couldn’t help but want to ask you how it all started. Why did you decide to write this particular story?
I started this project twelve years ago because a ten-year old boy came into my library, who wanted a book on zombies. He was with his tutor. Normally, I never see a delayed reader at that age without an adult dragging them in. Delayed reading ten-year old boys don't think of books and reading as a good thing. It's hard work for them. The only thing I had for him that he could read was designed for younger kids. So, I decided that I would write him some stories about a boy, who liked zombies. I wrote eight of them that he used that for his summer reading. He turned a corner soon after, which encouraged me, immensely.
I finally talked my graphic designer husband into helping me put them together. As the big publishers limit their scope, along with the help of computers, authors can find different paths to publish their books. But, of course, I hope to get it to a publisher to take it to a much wider audience.
I think of the delayed reader as a student, who is reading below grade level. Sometimes, it's a result of vision impairment, attention issues or limited early exposure to reading.
I chose to focus on ten-year old boys, who were delayed readers because, in my experience, what they are interested in tends to be what will appeal to most everyone. My goal is to give them a book that they can discuss with their peers, that their peers will want to read. I want them to have a chance to have that experience, sharing books with others. Kids tend to compare what they read and delayed readers don't always have that opportunity to share.
The "hero" Andy, in the book is the narrator's worst best friend. The narrator is a careful, thoughtful, worried kid. Andy is a bit of a devil. He isn't always nice and he'll trick the narrator for entertainment. We can connect with the friendship, either through the trickster or the worrier.
Do you do readings? If so, where and when?
I am beginning to put together author visits for schools. My main goal is to get them into classrooms, where they tend to have silent reading periods each day. And, that's where I think they'll make the most impact. Since we self published the books, we don't have an endless supply, so I'm hesitant to do book readings for bookstores. If a larger publisher ever picks them up then that could change.
What advice do you have for children who are learning to read and write?
I think the best way to get ahead in reading is to look at widely circulated lists for early literacy that you can find on the Internet. These lists have words like - and, or, the, - which are helpful to learn before entering kindergarten. There are no pictures to easily connect them with. They just have to be memorized.
Is there something I haven’t asked you that you would like to share with the readers?
One extra thing I think we all can do to connect with kids and support the value of reading is to ask them what they have read. Ask them for recommendations and then get the book from the library. A children's book is wonderful to read before bed because adults may actually be able to finish it before they fall asleep.
Thank you so much, Julie, for sharing your book and your thoughts on childhood literacy. What a wonderful contribution you have made to helping ALL children enjoy reading!