Wee Read Berkshire County to promote early literacy


Wee Read Berkshire County to promote early literacy

Updated:   04/03/2013 01:31:36 AM EDT

Youth librarian Orion Walker-Hazard gets help from 9-month-old Oliver Keeling in reading a book during toddler story time at the Lenox Library. Wee Read Berkshire County kicks off this weekend, featuring author/illustrator Eric Carle's book, 'The Tiny Seed.' (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)


Wee Read Berkshire County, a community early literacy initiative, took its first steps in 2011 featuring the book "Shoes" by Elizabeth Winthrop.

Last year, the mission kept rolling with David Shannon's picture book, "Duck on a Bike."

This year, Wee Read Berkshire County is touting strong roots and new growth, featuring author/illustrator Eric Carle's book, "The Tiny Seed."

The celebration coincides with and honors the Week of the Young Child and National Library Week, both of which are celebrated April 14 to 20. Some 1,500 copies of "The Tiny Seed" have been made available for free for young children and families across Berkshire County. Bookmarks with reading tips also will be distributed.

"We've been wanting to do something with Eric Carle for a while because he's from Western Massachusetts and because we wanted something to do with spring and growth," said Mary Nash, project coordinator for the Berkshire Compact for Education based at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The Compact leads Wee Read with the support of numerous collaborators and participants.

Wee Read had a "soft" launch this year by distributing books at an Easter egg hunt in Stockbridge but will formally begin this Saturday.

Nash said Eric Carle's signature illustration style will be echoed in arts and crafts projects, including the posterboards for the StoryWalks, through which families can walk along an area and read and see the story page by page.

A new event for Wee Read this year is a School Readiness Fair, sponsored by the Pittsfield Transition Team and Pittsfield Promise literacy initiative. The event is April 27 at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough.

"I think there's a lot of attention being paid to early childhood at this time, with an increase in spending in early childhood and the governor's budget," said Sue Doucette, the early childhood coordinator for Pittsfield Public Schools. "Also in Berkshire County, we have a lot of resources available to families and young children. We communicate a lot with each other and collaborate with each other."

Wee Read also will feature special community reading events.

Heidi Dugal, principal of Gabriel Abbott Memorial School in the town of Florida, will visit the Tuesday night playgroup led by Melissa Zepka, a child development specialist at the Family Resource Center of Child Care of the Berkshires in North Adams.

Dugal said having an initiative like Wee Read associated with the playgroup not only highlights literacy, but also highlights the ongoing work that people like Zepka do with parents and children on a regular basis.

"Wee Read is near and dear to my heart," said Dugal. "It's so

Lenox Library youth librarian Orion Walker-Hazard helps 1-year-old Hollis Ellerbee read a book. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
important to read to my students because it's a way to make a personal connection."

The principal, who also loves to cook, will read to students on Tuesday and also whip up a special snack.

"Just like appetizers whet your palate for a meal, reading to [students] from a book can whet their appetite for reading," she said.

To reach Jenn Smith:,
or (413) 496-6239.
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

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Wee Reed Berkshire County launches this weekend:

On Saturday, StoryWalks go on display for the month at Becket Washington, Berkshire Trail and Kittredge elementary schools and the Dalton CRA. There's a story time and playgroup from 9 to 11 a.m. at Montessori School of the Berkshires in Lenox Dale.

For a full list of Wee Read Berkshire County events for the month of April, visit weereadberkshirecounty or contact your local library.