Houston, Reading, and the Many Ways to Say Hello

I’m kinda digging a recent article, Houston has No Problem by Lance Scott Walker that appeared on the Thrillest this week about my hometown. Just when we’ve returned from the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains, land that I love, his piece reminds me of all the things I really do appreciate about H-town.

His article is packed with information, but notable to me – and one of the main reasons the hubs and I opted to raise children here – is the diversity of this place. Houston is an incredibly diverse city, and our restaurant scene, our small businesses, our Medical Center and science industries, our arts scene, our children are the better for it. For a more academic viewpoint, just see what Rice University’s Stephen Klineberg’s research has to say on the matter. He calls it a “demographic revolution.” (He specifically addresses the diversity of the city at the 4:20 mark.)

Believe me, there are parts of Houston that don’t particularly thrill me – can you say humidity? – but I am greatly satisfied that my children eat a wide variety of cuisine, hang out with friends of every religion and culture, and expect, when they go out in public, that not everyone will look or think like they do and still, by and large, get along. This expectation is crucial, absolutely, as we move forward as a nation.

I remain convinced that children who are read to result in interesting, empathetic, loving individuals; reading informs the mind, softens the heart, and provides comfort. What should you read to them? Just about anything, I’d suggest! Read, just read!

Having said that, on my mind this morning is a book I often turn to when creating lessons for young kiddos. Even though I believe the intended setting is New York City, it reminds me of Houston, nonetheless. Say Hello by Rachel Isadora actually popped into my brain, as I read say helloWalker’s article the other day.

Over her favorite breakfast of huevos con tocino, Carmelita’s mama informs her that they will visit Abuela Rosa today. Together with their dog, Manny, they walk through their neighborhood. Along the way, they say hello to a variety of neighbors and shop owners. Each one says “hello” in a different language.  At the Japanese restaurant, they’re greeted with “Konichiwa!” Carmelita’s friend, Joseph, calls out “Jambo!” Eventually, they say “Hola!” to Abuela Rosa (and set off for some ice cream).

Do you ever read a story aloud and have your child act it out? Do you ever have your students assume a character in a book and have them perform the part? If not, please do! Stories come alive when children become a part of them! Suddenly, children actually see themselves as part of the storytelling process, they relate all the more to the setting, time, space, and the characters, and they further fall in love with books and reading.

Ask your daughter to pretend to be Carmelita — you can be all the people she meets along the street; assign students in your classroom the characters in this book and have them, with your guidance, retell this story.

As you read this story, and (I hope) act it out, use it as a springboard for all kinds of important and necessary conversations that might rise to the surface. What a natural and genuine way to discuss all the ways we are alike, different, and yet still alike.

Please, oh please,

Keep Reading,

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