Making a Difference. Mary Heaton, Literary Specialist
Mary Heaton, Literacy Specialist, Bethel Elementary School, One School, One Book.
Mary Heaton has spent the last 30 years instilling the love of reading in young children. She’s been a first and second grade teacher at Bethel Elementary, and now serves in a new role as the school’s literacy specialist.
“Reading is my love,” she said. “After teaching students to read for so many years, you just develop that love of reading. A lot of what we do as literacy specialists is intervention so I use those skills from the classroom to help struggling readers. It’s my job to help kids love reading and to get excited about it and share that excitement.”
Her love of reading will be shared school-wide with the implementation of the One School, One Book program. It’s a national program that helps educate families and schools on the benefits and importance of reading aloud.
“We started the program last spring with the book, The Lemonade War,” she explained. “This fall our teachers will read Melvin Beederman Super Hero: The Curse of the Bologna Sandwich aloud to students in every classroom.” Teachers will also invite parents, community members and other teachers to participate in the read-aloud, and classroom activities are planned so the whole class gets involved.
Mauldin High football players and cheerleaders were on hand to kick off the program and to deliver a copy of the book to every classroom. The excitement on children’s faces was evident, and many students were eager to give the players and cheerleaders a high-five in appreciation.
The read-aloud will continue for six weeks, with each Friday being the most exciting day, said Heaton. “During our morning news show, Mrs. Lewis will ask a question about the book. Each week one grade level will be featured. Only students in that grade level can answer the question. The teacher calls Mrs. Lewis’ cell phone and gives the answer live on television. The first class that gets it right gets a red cape delivered to their classroom,” she explained.
A growing body of research describes the complex and permanent effects of reading aloud. Reading aloud sharpens the imagination, creates healthy dialogue, and engenders in children a love of reading. Children who learn to listen eventually learn to read, and literacy skills provide the basis for a lifetime of learning and productivity.