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Penn State Fayette professor, students bring message to Zachariah Connell Elementary

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 7:42 a.m.
Penn State student Angela Simmons reads to students (from left) Callie Wagner, 6, Trevor Swank, 6, Abygal Means, 7, Isaiah Seehoffer, 7, Tyler Nicholson, 7, and Taylor Powell, 7. Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier -- Feb 2013

Speaking to a group of teachers and parents, Penn State Fayette professor Elaine Barry addressed the need for reading regardless of the material or the content.

“What you read isn't necessarily important, it's that you read,” Barry said. “Reading to your children boosts their brains and reading to them is so beneficial.”

Barry was invited to speak Wednesday afternoon at Zachariah Connell Elementary School in Connellsville.

“She put on a good program and I think that the parents really enjoyed it,” Title 1 teacher Marian Bryson said. “Reading to your child is important, but so is having them read to you.”

Barry brought along some of her own favorite children's books to share, illustrating that you don't need books written especially for children for your child to enjoy the experience while learning.

“My son's favorite book was a coffee table book,” Barry said as she showed a large book based on the Galapagos Islands. “This is not a book written for children and it's really just something that sits on your coffee table that is filled with pretty photos, but he loved it. We would turn the pages and talk about the water and the photos and he always enjoyed it.”

Barry added that when reading to your child — even at a very young age — something as simple as making an animal noise related to the animal on the page is the same as telling them how a letter of the alphabet sounds.

“Reading a book doesn't have to be about really reading that book or reading all the words, it's about the experience,” Barry said. “Doing something like making sounds or animal noises helps them to build pre-reading skills.”

Barry also stressed that it is not important to devote an enormous amount of time to reading.

“If you don't have 35 minutes to read, then take 5 minutes,” she said, adding that children can get information from any type of book. “If it's a chapter book or a comic book, they will get some kind of information.”

Barry added that reading to a child, even those with attention problems, is very beneficial to having them learn to not only pay attention, but to listen.

“Reading to your child builds attention,” Barry said. “Reading to them helps their attention to grow.”

About 12 students from the university came with Barry and read to the children.

“I was happy to do it and the kids have been so excited,” student Angela Simmons, 21, of Uniontown said. “This was nice.”

Simmons read two books to a kindergarten class and a first-grade class. First-grade teacher Lori Dropik said she welcomed the guest reader.

“I think this was a great idea and I enjoyed it very much,” Dropik said. “We read in here every day and we even have a saying that we say all the time: ‘The more you read, the smarter you get.'”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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