Getting by with a little help from my friends- reading to children at the Harris Stowe State University preschool by Dr. Sam Bommarito

Getting by with a little help from my friends- reading to children at the Harris Stowe State University preschool

chocolate-lindt-box-wallpaper- public domain


“When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.” – Mem Fox

 I just spent the morning on Thursday at Harris Stowe State University in St. Louis.  For quite a number of years, Dr. Betty Porter Walls, an associate professor at Harris Stowe, has organized “read ins”, where community volunteers come in and read to the children at the university’s preschool.  On Thursday, we did an early celebration of the International Reading Day by having such a read in. Over 20 volunteer readers participated.

Since the preschool population is young, ages 2-5, readers are instructed to do simple book introductions/picture walks.  They do not read the entire book, rather they highlight talking about the book, perhaps reading a passage or two from the book. Betty makes it clear the key goal is to get the children interested in literacy.  For the university’s preschool children reading really does “sound like chocolate, not medicine!”

I brought along a copy of a book I recently purchased for my own grandchildren. It is Eric Litwin’s newest book called “If You’re Groovy and You Know It, Hug a Friend!” Like all of Eric’s books, it is both educational and engaging.  The words of the book are sung to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it”.  The children seemed to really enjoy themselves as they listened to a couple of verses and clapped along as I “sang” the book.

Eric Litwin if You're Groovey

Readers at this event usually work in teams, with each team member reading a book. I was fortunate to have Candy Pettiford on my team.  She is a children’s author and a former member of the St. Louis Black Author’s Association. She gave a lively rendition of a book she wrote called “Oh the Things You can Do! (When you Don’t Watch TV). Her book also included a song.

Pictured above is the cover of her book and a picture of the two of us together after the read. Pictured below is Julius Anthony, president of the St. Louis Black Authors, myself, Dr. Bill Kerns who often authors things for this blog, and Dr. Betty Porter Walls organizer of this event and many more like it.


Today’s event was a reminder of the importance of reading to children. Doing that is the key to creating lifelong readers. We’re fortunate in St. Louis to have many educators and others who are willing to do that for our area children. All in all, it was a very good day.  You can’t go wrong when you share good books with children.


Happy Reading and Writing


Dr. Sam Bommarito, aka the book reader

To contact Candy Pettiford about her books, e-mail her at


Copyright 2018 by Dr Sam Bommarito who is solely responsible for this content.


6 thoughts on “Getting by with a little help from my friends- reading to children at the Harris Stowe State University preschool by Dr. Sam Bommarito

  1. Eric Litwin

    Hi Sam. Thanks for sharing Groovy Joe, If You’re Groovy and You Know It. This book explores what makes us groovy (nice) people. It is singable and helps children learn to read by combining limited vocabulary for decoding and sight words with music, meaning, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and visual cues. This way children can enjoy the book as a read-aloud or as a beginning independent reader. Eric

    1. doctorsam7

      I’m so glad that you are BOTH a teacher and a talented book writer and songwriter. The teacher in you shows through by knowing that it is important to write in a way that includes ” music, meaning, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, and visual cues” and that you know the important thing is that the children should enjoy the books. Looking forward to your next one. As someone said on Facebook, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!! Dr. B.

    1. doctorsam7

      Was glad to see old friends there and make new ones. Dr. Walls will keep you posted on when the next event is. I’m so happy that Betty, Bill and the other professors at Harris Stowe University are so supportive of literacy!

  2. Betty Porter Walls

    Dear Sam,
    Thanks to you, my ‘lifetime’ reading buddy, for your support of literacy and participation in the annual International Literacy Day Intergenerational Read-In at Harris-Stowe State University last Thursday. Your blog of the event is appreciated as it helps to tell the story of the joy of reading and the love of books everyone evidenced during the read-in. Our Clay Center teachers and children were thrilled to have volunteer readers in the classrooms and we’ve received rave reviews and applause for the group’s enthusiasm. Thanks to you and others, this read-in is our largest in terms of volunteer participation. We are ecstatic! Remember, ‘A day without reading is like an unsharpened pencil; it has no point.’
    Thanks again,
    Betty Porter Walls, Associate Professor
    Harris-Stowe State University

    1. doctorsam7

      Betty, thanks to you for the many many many things you’ve done over the years to promote literacy. In addition to the read in’s you are also active in the ILA, helped at the NCTE convention and serve on the local ILA READ committee that has gotten almost 20,000 books into the hands of children in Title 1 schools. And did I mention you’ve been Harris Stowe’s teacher of the year? We’re all glad to help at the read-ins and I promise you we get more than we give. Happy Reading & Writing Sam


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