Reliving “Otis” Again & Again…

by Katie DeGuglielmo

Katie DeGuglielmo, a true Jumpstart veteran, is Jumpstart’s former National Program Coordinator. Katie joined Jumpstart as a Corps member at Tufts University and then became a Jumpstart Site Manager for Jumpstart’s Northeast team; shortly thereafter she joined Jumpstart’s National Program team.

In celebration of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record®, Katie shares the “why” behind creating the Otis Storytelling kit to go along with the official Read for the Record 2013 campaign book. Read for the Record is one of Katie’s favorite times of the year.

One day during a Jumpstart session, I was reading Where the Wild Things Are with a young boy named Ralph for the 100th time. As we read, I accidentally turned two pages at once, skipping a piece of the story. Man did I hear about it! “That’s not right!” the little boy exclaimed, as he snatched the book from my hands.

And then something amazing happened…

To correct my mistake, Ralph began to “read” to me. Ralph had listened to each telling of Where the Wild Things Are. He knew every line, and when he couldn’t remember the exact words that were in the text, he was able to use his own words to convey the same meaning.

What was happening in Ralph’s brain was remarkable. With each repeated telling of the story, Ralph understood the story more and more. He understood that the central character, Max, was using his imagination to travel to the land of the Wild Things. Best of all, he empathized with Max’s desire to go home to a place where someone loved him. As an early childhood education professional, I can tell you, these are not easy concepts for a four-year-old to grasp!

All of this is to say that when you pick up your copy of Otis to read with a special child in your life, don’t just read the story on October 3 in celebration of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record® and put it away on the book shelf – take out Otis and read it many times over. Help children develop a deep understanding for the characters and events, and make Otis a classic in your household or in your classroom.

I know from reading with Ralph that adults can (occasionally) tire of reading any story many times over. I also know many children like Ralph who enjoy the 100th telling of a story just as much as they enjoyed the first. For those of you who may have accidentally skipped a page or two on the 100th reading, I have a secret weapon for you. This secret weapon is a felt board – and it’s available in Jumpstart’s Otis Storytelling Kit.

Felt boards are a fantastic way to bring stories to life. Children move the pieces across the felt board while talking about the important events from the book. In Jumpstart’s Otis Storytelling Kit, all of the important landmarks and characters from the story are available in the form of a felt board so that children can relive the playfulness of Otis again and again. Children will learn to identify the feelings that motivate characters’ behavior and understand the importance of event sequence. Through this type of play, children acquire that sophisticated ability to retell a familiar story in their own words.

When you pledge to read Otis for Jumpstart’s Read for the Record 2013, be sure to reserve your copy of our exclusive storytelling Kit. As an added bonus, proceeds from the activity kit support Jumpstart’s mission to work toward the day every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed.

Together, we can help all children build the key language and literacy skills they need to take on the world.

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