SDHC Announces 'I Learned to Read At' Storytelling Program

SDHC Executive Director Ann Volin's elementary school lunchbox, above right, is being used to collect "I Learned to Read at' stories in the SDHC office. Members of the public are welcome to stop into the office, at 1215 Trail Ridge Rd. Ste. A in Brookings, with a donation and the story of their first literary steps, which they can place the lunchbox to enter it for our publication. 

Stories of First Literary Steps to be Published in Collection Released at 2019 Festival in Deadwood Oct. 4-6

Literature is needed now more than ever, as the Pew Research Center has revealed that in our technology-dominated society, 25 percent of American adults did not read a single book in 2018.

To raise awareness for literacy, and to raise money for our programs which encourage reading, we want to hear your story!

The South Dakota Humanities Council has created a new program called "I Learned to Read at..." in which our constituents share their first literary steps along with a donation in the amount of their choosing.

Our work with One Book South Dakota, Young Readers, and the Festival of Books celebrates literature, but we need your help to make these programs even more successful. Help us show the importance of literacy to other South Dakotans by sharing your "I Learned to Read at" story!

These stories will be assembled for a special publication to be released at the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books in Deadwood Oct. 4-6. Click below to submit your story/donation today. And read on below to hear stories from our staff members, whose "I Learned to Read at..." stories are sure to inspire you to write your own!

SDHC Executive Director Ann Volin's elementary school lunchbox, above, is being used to collect "I Learned to Read at' stories in the SDHC office. People stop into the office, at 1215 Trail Ridge Rd. Ste. A in Brookings, with a donation and the story of their first literary steps; they write their stories on a provided slip and place it in the lunchbox to enter it for our publication. 

Ann Volin, Executive Director

I learned to read at Grandview District #1, my country school, which had a separate room with fully-stocked book shelves. After I finished my desk work with Mrs. Anderson, our teacher, I could go read a book in the library, like one of my favorites, "Make Way for Ducklings." As a small child in a big world, my little schoolhouse gave me a strong sense of place. And it was where I learned how to go other places without physically leaving. I still remember McCloskey's charcoal drawings of the ducks exploring Boston, and I still remember that room with its dark brown, fully-stocked book shelves, welcoming me to visit anytime I wanted to go somewhere inside my head.

Deb Delaney, Programs and Data Coordinator 

I learned to read at ... Central Elementary School in Brookings, SD. Our first-grade class sat in an ability-based reading circle and took turns reading aloud from Dick and Jane about their perfectly ordinary adventures with Spot and Puff. From there, it was across the street, and ...
Up three worn steps
Through a heavy door
Into the world of books
Inside here, anything
From here, anywhere.
... pushing through the front door invitation into my local Carnegie library. Hot summer days were spent in the cool damp of the children's section in the basement reading Blueberries for Sal and anything I could lay my hands on about horses. At 13-14 years old a friend introduced me to the author, Emilie Loring. We spent the next years voraciously trading and reading through all 50 of her offerings whenever and wherever we could find them. The books are full of history and mystery, integrity and morals, high adventure, peril and virtuous romance. Out of 50 titles, just one included a kiss. I credit them in large part to the development of my character and who I am today. Fast forward to homeschooling, teaching my seven children, one by one, to read. Learn to read, read to learn was a founding homeschool principal. Today, an escape from the ubiquitous "how-to" books that pepper my everyday world leads to gothic novels. And still, on occasion, I pick an Emilie Loring from my collection and read it for the third, fourth ... maybe, fifth time. Wonderful, old friends just pick up the thread no matter the years between.

South Dakota Humanities Council executive director Ann Barnett Volin on first day of first grade with brothers Greg (left) and Mark (right).

South Dakota Humanities Council executive director Ann Barnett Volin on first day of first grade with brothers Greg (left) and Mark (right).

Carolyn Speakman, Office Manager/Administrative Assistant

I learned to read sitting on my dad's lap each night listening to him read to me. He would read the Little Golden books to us each night. He carried on this tradition with my first child and helped to teach him to read as well. My first-grade teacher Mrs. Johnson further developed my love of reading by introducing me to the Berenstain Bears series. Brother and sister bear taught me all about strangers, fears, friends, family, honesty and just being kind.

Ryan Woodard, Communications, Outreach Coordinator

I officially "learned to read at" my elementary school (and at home). But my love for books came from my father, who read "Chronicles of Narnia" and other classics to me as a child and continues to discuss books with me today. I spent much of my adolescence reading and re-reading the work of Gordon Korman ("Bruno and Boots") and John D. Fitzgerald ("The Great Brain"). These authors taught me how to become engrossed in a story.

Another Fitzgerald — the infinitely more famous F. Scott — taught me a lesson or two as an adult. I felt as though I learned to read all over again a few years ago when I revisited his masterpiece "The Great Gatsby," which I (unfortunately) hadn't picked up since high school. I think about that book nearly every day; it changed my outlook on life, just as those other books did when I was younger.

Melinda Berdanier, Project Coordinator

I learned to read at St. Mary's School in Shelby, Ohio. The Franciscan nuns were my teachers and Sr. Miriam Patrice was my first-grade teacher. She had a warm smile that radiated from her round face which was framed by her black and white veil. She was a very kind teacher and she made me feel safe since I was rather reluctant to be in school. I was a good reader though, thanks to my parents who had already been reading to me at home, and I remember sitting with a small group of my classmates in a circle on little wooden chairs. We would take turns reading from the small books that sat open on our laps.

Fast forward to 15 years later and one would find this once-reluctant student with my own degree in Elementary Education, teaching second graders, as well as my own two sons, how to read. I worked hard to instill the love of rhyme and rhythm and to show these children how the characters and stories could come to life in their minds. My favorite job was nearly 20 years after that, when I became a Reading Recovery teacher in Rapid City, SD. It was in this position, working with low progress first graders, that I learned what it really meant to teach children who were struggling to become readers and writers. It was my favorite job, and truly my niche, as I focused in on the individual strengths and struggles of these little children, teaching them strategies for making sense of and finding meaning in the words and stories contained in their little books. Helping these children develop into successful, independent readers and writers is my greatest professional reward and I am grateful to all of those who did the same for me.

Jennifer Widman, Center for the Book Director

I learned to read at ... home. I know that much. But to be honest, I can't remember a time when I didn't know how to read. My parents have told me I learned the basics watching Sesame Street, and that sounds right. Of course, the hours I spent sitting on one of their laps, or one of my grandparents' laps, with a book were likely an even larger part of the learning process. When I started kindergarten, I could already read well enough that my teacher, Mrs. Donahue at Washington Elementary in Pierre, asked me to read aloud to the class during circle time. I was too shy, though; I just couldn't do it!

My shyness gradually dissipated, but my basic introversion never did, so reading remained one of my favorite activities. Whether the books came from our shelves at home, the children's section at Rawlins Municipal Library, or my eagerly awaited Scholastic Book Club orders, I would read anything and everything. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pippi Longstocking, The Five Little Peppers, The Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, even the Hardy Boys (filched from my brother's bedroom) – they were all my friends, almost as real as the neighborhood kids badgering me to put down my book and come outside to play. If I'd known then that I'd someday have a job focused almost entirely on books and their authors, well, let's just say "nurse, ballerina and forest ranger" would have dropped right off my list of "what I want to be when I grow up." I didn't know, of course, but here I am. And I'm still striving constantly to carve out time to read.

Submit your Own Story!

Ready to submit your own story? Click below to send it in today!