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Remember “Horton Hatches the Egg?” How about “Charlotte’s Web?”
Memories of treasured stories make us smile or sigh. The stories of childhood stay with us and contribute to how we see ourselves in society. But that only happens when children hear stories, read stories and see adults enjoying them too.
Becoming a contributing member of society requires the ability to discuss issues civilly, listen to different points of view and make decisions based on our own ideals and strong character.
Stories are the cultural glue that hold human groups together. Dialog is the bedrock of civil society. Children absorb their culture by listening to and conversing with their elders to learn to participate as informed citizens.
“Talking Stories/Cuentos que hablan” builds on the story telling traditions of our richly multicultural region to bring live discussion groups to neighborhoods across Dona Ana County. We have been working with NMSU professors, local writers and performers to create interactive forums for families to enjoy literature and practice critical thinking, listening and speaking skills together.
Families will actively participate in humanities discussions focused on some of the underlying themes in folklore and children’s stories. Local performing artists will present monthly dramatic readings followed by probing group discussion.
Each month a different story will be interpreted by another local artist. Themes during the next 10 months will include oral traditions of our area, social justice, character development and personal decision making.
Our first “Talking Stories” event occurs February 19 at 5:30 pm. Las Cruces playwright and actor Monika Mojica will perform “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet,” by Mercer Mayer, followed by a discussion about facing our fears and developing personal resilience.
Because there is need for social distancing, “Talking Stories” will occur in interactive chat rooms for now. Space is limited to the first 10 families to register.
Children’s literature, especially picture books, make complex issues accessible to audiences of diverse ages, cultures and levels of formal education. Animals and fanciful characters add a degree of emotional distance that allows freedom to think critically about messages that are personal, painful, or powerful.
Carefully guided shared inquiry strengthens comprehension and decision-making skills and provides experience discussing hot-button topics with empathy and civility.
The books' carefully selected themes address ethical decision making, preconceived judgments, interpersonal dynamics, fairness, stewardship and struggles of the Borderland, as well as character traits of empathy, resilience, setting personal boundaries, accepting personal responsibility, overcoming obstacles and celebrating our diverse heritage. Each book has been chosen for its literary excellence and provocative illustrations.
Children’s Reading Alliance is collaborating with the New Mexico Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A matching grant from NMCH and NEH provides books to participating families. Children’s Reading Alliance must raise $6,000 in community contributions.
To register for an event or become a community sponsor contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Rorie Measure is president emeritus of Children's Reading Alliance, a grassroots initiative to encourage family literacy throughout Doña Ana County. She is a reader, writer, teacher, reading specialist and literacy trainer who can be reached at email@example.com.