Sherry Winchester, Registered Nurse (RN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) recipient, is a proud grandmother to five Raising Readers graduates, ranging in age from 23 to 9. As a former Nurse Manager at the Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Family Medicine Center, she was a Raising Readers supporter from the early days of the program and saw the impact the program had on little readers, including her own grandchildren.
You had the unique experience of participating in Raising Readers as both a medical provider and a caregiver. What was that like?
My grandchildren and I have really fond memories of Raising Readers. I remember they would see me after their well-child visit and say, “Look, we got a book!” I loved seeing how excited they were. They remember thinking that the best part was that they could take these books home and keep them!
I always felt that it was a gift to be able to give children Raising Readers books during their visits, especially those who were less fortunate. If their little lives were unstable at home, the books were a great source of comfort to them. I saw many children who developed language skills and learned to read at an earlier age because they were presented with this opportunity.
Your grandchildren are older now, but do you have a favorite book that you used to read to them?
My grandchildren always loved books that had connections to Maine. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey and Goodnight Maine by Adam Gamble were two of their favorites. I remember we’d all laugh while reading The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes (and we still do!). And my grandchildren love animals, so The Lighthouse Dog by Betty Waterton was another favorite of theirs that we read often.
Did your parents or family members read to you as child?
My parents didn’t read to me but my father was a wonderful storyteller. He would recite poetry or tell my brother and me stories about his childhood and his experiences as a Canadian Air Force pilot. He even had a story about a time he saw a polar bear wandering around a town he was visiting! His stories were very detailed and I remember closing my eyes and imagining his adventures as he told the stories.
It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered my love of reading. It was hard for me to sit still when I was younger and I didn’t find books very interesting at the time. Children’s books have changed a lot since I was a kid! Today’s books have such beautiful pictures and are easier for children to hold compared to what was available when I was young. I think that makes it easier for both children and adults to really enjoy the reading experience.
What have you done to encourage your grandchildren to be young readers?
Kids are like little sponges and they will copy what they see you doing, so I made sure to show them my love of reading and books. When they were younger, I gave books to my grandchildren for every birthday and holiday. I’d write the date and a little note to them inside the cover. My grandchildren still have these books and I hope that they will pass them on to their children.
What is your favorite thing about being a grandmother?
The beauty of being a grandparent is that you can enjoy time with your grandchildren without the stresses that a lot of today’s parents have. I have more free time and resources, and I can do more with my grandchildren than I was able to do with my own children as a busy working mom. I love sharing experiences with my grandchildren that they will always remember.
Why are grandparents in a great position to promote early literacy with their grandchildren?
We have the time, and age has made us a little more patient! You love your grandchildren immediately – before you even meet them. It’s a special bond that you can use to teach and encourage. We can model good reading habits and make reading fun for them.
National Grandparent’s Day is just around the corner on September 9th. We invite you to celebrate the day by bringing grands, books, and children together with some dedicated read-aloud time!