Click the Firefly
The Adventures and Stories of A Reading Ambassador
Spend a couple of minutes enjoying this lovely gift of photo art from photographer Vicki Passmore of The Memory Archive (www.thememoryarchive.com). The photos were taken at Candler Elementary School, near Asheville, NC. Three of Vicki's grandchildren attend the school. Our thanks to Vicki and Candler Elementary for permission to share this wonderful treasure.
Mark's programs will tickle your funny bone, touch your heart, and motivate your young readers, just like a great book!
After a program for Frances Carmack the Media Specialist at Bowling Green Primary in Bowling Green, VA she said "It was amazing and so special that you picked the last little boy to help you!" Why I asked? She told me he was going through some rough times, and that his mother had terminal cancer and his father was overseas (presumably in the military, I didn't ask just listened) "I took a picture to send his mom, this did him a lot of good" she told me. ( He was terrific on stage by the way)
I wouldn't have known if she hadn't mentioned it to me. More amazing, incidents like this have happened repeatedly over the years. Its taught me to never underestimate a simple, yet powerful moment and the possible impact it can have on a life.
A few years ago a teacher approached me after a performance where she had been moved by my interpretation of Tomie dePaola's The Legend of The Indian Paintbrush. She said "You do understand what you do is a ministry? An important one of sharing the joy and importance of books."
I could never proclaim anything quite so profound, but was touched that the program impacted her to feel like this. Folks take away their own impressions from each educational and/or artistic experience they have. Do they get it, does it stick?
Sometimes stunningly so!
At The Byrnes School in Florence, SC, Mark's appearances, over the last 12 years until their closing this year, had become such a tradition that they made his visits part of their curriculum. In the annual school handbook and under the Library entry was a synopsis of his programs and the fact that he was expected each fall. Very Cool!
Mark was the guest of the Chapel Hill Public Library, in Chapel Hill, NC, where he has presented the finale program for their Summer Reading Program the past 10 years. After the performance, a mom approached him. As they were talking, she said, "I just had to come up and say thank you for your program and what you do." Mark asked "Why?" She said, "When we came to your show last year, my son was a reluctant reader. You made the Magic Tree House books sound so interesting and like so much fun when you talked about them. He went immediately upstairs and checked out the first one. Since then, he has read every single one in the series."
Recently in Sam's Club, a mom stopped Mark while shopping and asked him to wait for a moment while she ran to get her son who was with his dad in another part of the store. She wanted the boy to tell Mark about reading all of the Bunnicula series after learning about them during his program appearance. The boy was very shy and excited as he talked about the books with a big smile. It's awesome to experience the follow-up and learn some of the impact. Magical Indeed!
Books read today by children can carry a intensely personal and lifelong association.
Often I've finished some of my programs over the years with a reading of Goodnight Moon, a teacher mentioned that she had read the book a thousand times to children, but had never had it read to her and found it a moving experience.
Later a teacher at Joyner Elementary in Greensboro, NC, stepped backstage after a performance to tell me how much she'd "enjoyed the program, however she said, the reading of Goodnight Moon really got to her."
Amazing! The power of some well chosen words, some simple yet elegant illustrations in a tiny little book. Pretty Cool!
Just Plain Cool
At Concord Elementary in Anderson, SC, Mark had finished the second program that morning. He posed for pictures with several of the students around the schools and a lifesize wooden cut out of Flat Stanley. (Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown) And then the reading teacher ask him if he would sign their Stanley, a special honor she said. He was not really paying attention to the other signatures during the typical aftershow swirl of activity while he signed.
A bit later accompanying Teaching Librarian Daniel Beach on a classroom visit, they took a short cut through the computer lab, where the reading teacher stopped them to ask Mark if he had looked at the signatures on Stanley and pointed out where Laura and George W. Bush had signed. Mark felt honored indeed to be included among the many prominent names:)
At St. Mary's Catholic School in Greenville, SC, Principal Sister Veronica's challenge of taking students off school property for field trips had become a chore. She decided to make life a little easier, and bring the field trips to the students! Mark was privilaged to be a part of her very active Cultural Arts program for 3 years.
Mark feels like family at Oak Grove Elementary in Lexington, SC. Teresa Harmon, the media specialist, has invited him to perform at the school annually for years. During a visit one November, Mark was really torn on School Spirit Day. Half the school was cheering for USC and the other half for Clemson. When asked who he was pulling for, Mark smiled and said "Go Carolina! (Tarheels:)
"It's The stuff dreams are made of" said Daniel who left the children with their "imagination caps" to ponder the books their library holds for them. Quoted from The "Beacon", Virginia Beach, VA after a visit to Tallwood Elementary there.
Bill Pollard invited Mark to Waterman School in Harrisonburg, VA 10 or 12 times over the years. He retired a few years ago, but Mark's last time there Bill created this page for the school website. We thought he did a great job with it. Bill stopped by a while back during our visit to his wife's school Ottobine Elem. where she's the media specialist. As he's one of our favorite people, we were delighted to find out he is overseeing student teachers at JMU. He's one of the good guys!
The Young at Heart
Mark has been invited to perform many times on Ocracoke Island at North Carolina's Outer Banks. Ocracoke as you may know is a magical place where time literally is frozen to a simpler era.
The library brings him in and works jointly with Ocracoke School to host the appearance. Generally 30 kids and a handful of adults is an excellent turn out on the tiny island, one year it was double that and the show went very well.
Mark had noticed several older couples in the back having just as much fun as the kids. Thinking they were grandparents there with their grandkids, of course. After the program and the kids had left, the couples approached him and revealed they were retired educators from Ohio visiting on vacation. They were principals, superintendents, teachers and they were gushing over the performance "the best thing they'd seen in 30 years of teaching" they said, Mark thanked them as they left the air-conditioned comfort of the building to head out into an island paradise with no kids in tow :)