I wrote a blog post several weeks ago - You Never Know, by Erin Frankel - which resonated with many readers. Feedback was so positive, that it got me thinking about why that particular piece touched so many people. Perhaps the awareness that our acts of kindness and generosity can be truly meaningful to another human being gave readers pause for reflection. To consider that you never know what someone else has been through or is going through is, in itself, an act of kindness. You may not know what someone else brings to the table, but your decision to bring kindness can have a profound impact on what that person takes away and, in turn, passes on.
Paula and I have decided to host a series of interviews on our blog that highlight this ripple effect that occurs when kindness is spread from person to person.
To start the series, we interviewed Marlene Veloso, Executive Director at the Kids Research Center, a children’s literacy non-profit based in New York City. Kudos to Marlene for sharing her passion with others and making a difference.
How did the idea for the Kids Research Center come about?
A few years ago, I was working as a literacy specialist in New York City and saw a need for programs that engage children in interactive, literacy activities, that incorporate parents into the curriculum, and create an environment where reading is valued, encouraged and fun. I spoke to a few friends that shared my passion for literacy and we put together our first event, a book drive that generated 250 books for children.
If you had to pick one word, like the titles of the Weird Series, to describe the work you do at KRC...what would it be and why?
I think the word would be “motivate.” Our parent workshops motivate parents to read with their children at home. Our literacy programs motivate children to ask questions and think critically. Our reading rooms motivate and enable children to research topics of interest. Our book drives motivate people to help others.
What was your experience with books when you were growing up?
I loved books and stories. I especially liked series, like The Berenstain Bears and Sweet Valley High. I enjoyed those characters and wanted to spend more time with them. I’m sure the readers of The Weird Series can relate.
What is a good age to start reading to our children?
You can start when their babies. Infants love books that are musical so pick books to read that have rhythm and rhyme. I recommend “Jazz Baby” by Lisa Wheeler. For toddlers, it’s great to read books that depict their every day lives. Books on bedtime routines, using the potty, or being dropped off at school help them make a connection between stories and their world.
The work you do at KRC is so meaningful. Looking back, is there one particular memory that means a lot to you.
I have several and they’re all moments when I see our work having a positive impact. When a struggling reader finds the courage to read aloud in class, when an immigrant parents tells us that we have given her the confidence to read to her children in English, when children run into a reading room that we just set-up, eager to see what books we’ve stocked on the shelves – those moments are priceless!
What do you hope to achieve at KRC? What is your vision for the future?
Our goal is to inspire children to ask questions, think critically, engage in reading, and create meaningful work. To do that, we must continue to deliver consistent, quality programs.
Is it true that we might find some books written by you on the shelves at KRC in the near future? Tell all!
Yes, I’m excited to tell you that I have two books coming out in the fall of 2015 with Free Spirit Publishing. The books are part of a baby board book series for ages 0-2. I had a lot of fun writing these books. I think babies are intelligent and innately curious so I really enjoyed creating a series that celebrates a child’s natural desire to explore, discover, and learn.
What advice would you give to a child who is involved in bullying?
To find courage – we all have it. It’s doesn’t have to be a big act of courage. A lot of times, small acts lead to a big change. Like in “Weird,” when Luisa decides to put her polka dot boots back on. Or later, when she continues to tell jokes and raises her hand in class. These are small acts that led to a big change in how she felt about herself and how Sam responded to her.
Luisa, Jayla, and Sam in the Weird Series each have a visual element that represents their stories and who they are. What would your visual element be if we wrote a book about you?
I love reading, writing, and learning so I think a book would best represent me. In fact, my friend recently got married and gave all her bridesmaids personalize necklaces. Mine had a book charm.
Thanks Marlene, you are an inspiration to all!