Kids hear the beauty of a good story



For effect, Denise Richardello wore the appropriate footwear for the audience of about two dozen youngsters from Berkshire County Head Start.

As the group of 3- to 5-year-olds sat around her, Richardello stuck out her feet and said, "I wore my purple shoes just for you guys."

The children giggled, then Richardello started to read them the book "Shoes" by part-time Williamstown resident Elizabeth Winthrop.

Many scenarios like this are happening across Berkshire County this week, when communities celebrate the first annual Wee Read Berkshire County event, spearheaded by the Berkshire Compact for Education.

Richardello, the vice president of enrollment and external relations at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts; Eloise Stevens, executive director of Berkshire County Head Start; and Andy Mick, chairman of the Berkshire Compact and publisher of The Berkshire Eagle and president of New England Newspapers Inc., kicked off the week-long event on Monday at Head Start.

The youngsters "love to listen to books and learn," said Head Start classroom teacher Rebecca Rash.

Similar to current community programs for older students and adults, like Pittsfield Reads and Lanesborough Reads, Wee Read is focused on children by encouraging families to read to children.

Events include community reading programs, special activities and story hours at local libraries. Eight communities will host a Story Walk, where poster-sized pages of the book "Shoes" will hang in the windows of local businesses, so people can walk around and read them.

In addition, early childhood care and education providers and libraries of Berkshire County are collaborating to distribute 1,200 free copies of Winthrop's book.

Winthrop told The Eagle on Monday that she is "thrilled and honored" to see "Shoes" featured in Wee Read.

In effectively communicating with young children, the author offered some advice: "Don't talk down to them [children]. Try to enter life on their level which is wide-eyed, literal, full of fun."

Referring to the book, she said, "Kids help me find the child inside myself who loves rhyme and dancing and a pair of new shoes. ... But most of all, my 'very own skinny-boned, wiggly-toed feet' especially sunk in a puddle of summer mud."