Eight Tips for Helping Young Readers Bloom

Spring is here, so many people are planning and prepping to work in their gardens. In many places, spring flowers are already blooming or daffodils and other spring bulbs are poking up out of the warming soil. Given the right conditions and care, gardens can be thriving, vibrant places full of life. And the same is true for young readers! So, to celebrate spring and gardens and reading, here are ten tips to help your young readers bloom and thrive, along with some garden photos for some garden inspiration. 1. Just like flowers, budding readers blossom in their own time. Encourage them, but let them grow at their own pace. 2. Gardens need the right nutrients to grow, and this can vary depending on the plant. The same is true for young readers. Fertilize young readers minds with consistent, nutrient-rich mind food. In other words, offer a variety of books! But remember, not all growing readers will respond to the same books the same way.  Cone flowers and black-eyed Susans in Rebecca'

Interview with Mary Wagley Copp

by Laura Sassi

Today we welcome author Mary Wagley Copp for a Read, Discuss, Do! interview. Mary’s newest picture book YOSHI’S BIG SWIM: ONE TURTLE’S EPIC JOURNEY HOME, illustrated by Kaja Kajfež and published by Capstone released this year. She is also the author of WHEREVER I GO (Atheneum/S&S, 2020), illustrated by Munir D. Mohammed.. Today we are delighted to hear from her about connecting with kids through books, the benefits of reading picture books, and more!

Laura: Read, Discuss, Do! is all about taking story time to the next level through thoughtful conversation and activities. Do you have a favorite memory of seeing this in action with one of your books? Or from your childhood?

Mary: Yes! An activity that often accompanies a reading of my book WHEREVER I GO is making a paper crown. The protagonist of the story makes herself a queen to help her navigate life in the refugee camp where she lives. As readers weave their own paper crown, many share how wearing a crown changes their attitude about themselves. One child said to me, “I feel like I can do anything – even with my paper crown!” Sometimes, when I need to feel a bit more empowered, I imagine I’m wearing a crown, too!

Laura: Tell us about your newest book. What kinds of thoughtful conversation and activities do you hope it will spark? 

Mary: My newest book is YOSHI’S BIG SWIM: One Turtle’s Epic Journey Home, illustrated by Kaja Kajfez (Capstone, 2023). While this nonfiction picture book is about a turtle that is rescued, rehabilitated and released, it is also about all the people who cared for her. I hope that reading this book will spark questions about caring for our environment and the animals that we share the earth with. 

Laura: Here’s a behind-the-scenes writing question. Do you think about how readers might extend your stories through discussion and activities while you are creating a story? In other words, is that part of your thought process as a writer? 

Mary: Interesting question! I do have fleeting – and exciting – thoughts on how my story might be shared or discussed between child and adult or in a classroom, but it doesn’t really govern my writing. It is sometimes a struggle just to get the right words on paper in a way that entertains, informs, engages readers so thoughts on activities sometimes come later.

Laura: What are your favorite three questions to ask kids to spark picture book conversation? 

Mary: I love to hold up the book and have kids look at the cover. “What is this story about?” They realize that illustrations can say a lot! As we read, I will ask them “What do think will happen next – and why?” This question has them thinking about how a story is structured. Was there any foreshadowing? Is the tone hopeful, ominous? At the end of the story, I will ask them how they feel. Not what they learned – but how they feel. Usually, there is a pause which is wonderful as they are doing just that – tapping into their feelings, their heart space.

Laura: Finally, do you have any special resources to share that will help teachers or parents before or after reading your books? 

Mary: Oh – yes! There are so many books and websites and centers devoted to turtles! Two good links are: https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/loggerhead-turtle and https://conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-loggerhead-sea-turtle/ Also, aquariums often have great exhibits with turtles. Yoshi was rehabilitated and released by the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town South Africa and they have loads of information: https://www.aquarium.co.za I would also check in with your local city and state and see if there are ‘turtle centers’ which rescue and rehabilitate turtles.

Mary graduated from Smith College and earned an MPH from UNC - Chapel Hill. Her career has been primarily focused on strengthening non-profit, social justice organizations - both as a management consultant as well as an executive director. Mary also spent several years in the filmmaking world. For one documentary, Mary and her team followed a family in an Ethiopian refugee camp to their new home in Providence, RI. This film - and the people featured - was the inspiration for her debut picture book, Wherever I Go (Atheneum/S&S, 2020), illustrated by Munir D. Mohammed. Mary is also author of the nonfiction picture book, Yoshi’s Big Swim: One Turtle’s Epic journey Home, illustrated by Kaja Kajfez (Capstone, 2023). Yoshi is a record-breaking magnificent creature and her long journey back to her natal beach.As well as writing for children, Mary teaches ESL to newcomers in her area. Mary loves to swim and garden. She lives in Westport, MA with her husband, Allyn. They have 3 grown children.