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West Ventura County Focus

OXNARD : It's a Teacher! A Princess! No, It's Story Lady!

November 19, 1994|MAIA DAVIS

On a typical day, reading teacher Eleanore Schiro spends her time at Oxnard's Fred Williams School hunched over books, helping children who struggle with the written language.

But about this time every year, Schiro slips on a long red dress, ties a shiny metallic apron around her waist and dons a pointy silver hat.

She becomes "Story Lady."

Seven years ago, Schiro began a tradition of reading aloud to each class at the Hueneme Elementary District school during the annual National Book Week.

The idea, she said, is to promote reading. And her costume aids the cause by conveying to children a sense of the magic of books.

"It puts them into a world of fantasy," Schiro said, "to show that books can take you many places."

Teachers go along with the masquerade, introducing Schiro as Story Lady, even though most of the school's students know her as the school's reading specialist.

Kindergartners are usually taken in by the disguise. But first-graders sometimes call Schiro's bluff, proclaiming that they know who she really is.

And while children in the upper grades also recognize her, they go along with the game. "They like a good story," she said.

In one of her visits to a kindergarten class Friday, one child told his teacher Schiro seemed like a princess from outer space. Another suggested she may be a ballerina. And a third said she resembled a servant.

Despite their uncertainty of Schiro's identity, the children appeared entranced by her story--a tale of a grouchy ladybug that challenges a snake, an elephant and other large animals to fight.

They were mesmerized, even though most of the children in the bilingual kindergarten are Spanish-speaking and unable to grasp most of the English words Schiro read.

One aim of reading aloud to children, Schiro said, is to expose them to stories that would be too difficult for the students to read themselves.

"The listening level of a child is always higher than their reading level," she said. "It builds vocabulary. You can't read a word you haven't heard before."

Because of such benefits, Schiro encourages parents to continue reading to their children even after the youngsters are able to read for themselves.

But some children at Fred Williams School said they prefer to read on their own.

"I like reading by myself," third-grader Megan McCorkle said. "Because when you read it by yourself you can read in your mind."

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