Have you ever thought of your hero as the person who makes you coffee in the morning?
Certain underlying, elemental forces set us on our good path every day that we work, play, dream, and succeed. Some of those forces are the people we start our days with- the people who care for us enough not only to benefit from the outcome of our success but to set our days up so that we may succeed.
Every Tuesday morning, RECLAIM Literacy holds a Summer Storytime program at Norman-Dawe on Woodland or in the Church of the Epiphany on Wellington. Every Tuesday, play mats and a bin of books are laid out before the kids arrive. Stories and puppets for the day are chosen beforehand so when the kids start pouring in at 10:30, everything is already waiting for them. I visited a session for the first time last week. As the children settled down and prepared for story time, I found a seat toward the back – perfect for quiet observation.
The animator began with songs and rhymes full of clapping and movement. The kids, all aged between 0-5, were already watching diligently. With their parents holding them in their laps, gently guiding their children and repeating after the animator, I could see the little ones already getting the hang of this. They watched wide-eyed as the animator then pulled out the first story of the day: Elliot Bakes a Cake. Lionel decides to bake Elliot Moose a cake for his birthday but it quickly turns into a disaster when Lionel is unable to follow some of the complicated instructions. Thankfully, Elliot comes to help. They work together and manage to bake the best cake either of them had ever tasted. You don’t need to read children’s books to realize that this is a story about teamwork and friendship. Watching the kids listen so avidly was touching.
In the moment that we finished that story, something magical happened. Joy, the director of RECLAIM, came out with a bowl of ingredients – all the ingredients needed to bake a cake. The story was coming true. Just as Lionel and Elliot had done, we were going to bake a cake together. Everyone was bursting with delight. Joy gave turns to the older kids at mixing the bowl as the younger ones watched in awe. You see, the day I visited was one of the rainiest days of the week but story time went on indoors regardless. No matter what, a story, a snack, and sunny people can bring light to any situation.
Reading aloud to children is incredibly powerful. In an article recently published by the NPR, it says that, “When we read to our children, they are doing more work than meets the eye”. As we read to them, they build the muscle in their brain that brings images to life in their minds. According to another recent article in the New York Times, The more parents read with their children, the more children have an opportunity to think about characters and the feelings of those characters. Eventually, “they learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.”
As I watched the staff of RECLAIM and the animator of the Storytime program mobilize to read to these children, I realized that there is so much more to them than what meets the eye. They are the unsung heroes of our lives. And yes, heroes don’t always wear capes. Most times, they are the ones who make us cake. They’re the ones who read us stories that help us understand friendship and teamwork. They sing silly songs and rhymes. They bring us joy without any inhibition. They light the way for us every single day.