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Explore the Story!
Photos courtesy of Jean Kessler Skipper

Leslie Lanier shares her love of books at preschool story time.

Each Wednesday at 9:30am, Leslie has been meeting with some of Ocracoke’s youngest residents to explore the joys of books and reading.

So far, they’ve read modern classics of early childhood lit, including Where’s Spot?, Guess How Much I Love You, Max’s New Suit, and Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day is Cool.

“Charlie and I have really enjoyed going to Leslie’s story time,” said mom Chrissy O’Neal. “The children really light up and get so excited about the books she reads to them. Leslie is great at interacting with the kids and getting them involved in the stories. After the story, they all get to draw their own picture and have a snack. It is a wonderful opportunity for people with younger children to get together and have a fun time.”

The story time program, which meets at the Assembly of God Church classroom, is intended for 3 and 4 year-olds, though there are a few tagalong babies – it’s never too soon to instill the love of reading! Each week, seven or eight young’uns join in the fun, bringing their moms or babysitters with them. It’s all a part of the Transformation Zone grant that’s part of the Race to the Top legislation. Four counties in N.C. get funding from Transformation Zone to promote early literacy.

Explore the Story!

Last November, Leslie went to a series of workshops to get certified in “story exploring.”

“The class taught us specific ways to read and explore a story with children,” she said. The Transformation Zone also provides the books for Leslie to read, and sometimes the kids get their own copies to keep. 

The grant is administered by Hyde County Schools, which is also sponsoring Motheread and Fatheread classes on the mainland. 

“We target things we can do to help improve reading for ages 0 – 5,” said Karen Carawan of Hyde County Schools’ administration.

Explore the Story!

“Story Exploring is meant to be done with the children, while Motheread and Fatheread focuses on the adults, teaching parents of babies and preschoolers strategies for reading to their children. We hope to instill the value of reading,” she said. 

Also as part of this grant, the Hyde County Department of Social Services is handing out books at well-baby visits. Every 4 year-old in Hyde County received a free book in December, and another in January. Transoformation Zone will also work with Ocracoke Child Care (when they re-open next week) and with the pre-K class at Ocracoke School.

“We target places where we think the children are,” Carawan said. 

Leslie chose to have her program in the church classroom because “it’s warm and toasty, a sweet little room, and [Pastor Ivey Belch] has been really accommodating.”

Explore the Story!

“I have had a great time getting to know some of Ocracoke's young children,” Leslie said. “They are so cute, it always makes me happy to see children reading and to see parents that know how important reading is. “

Jetta Brown and Allison Moote attend Leslie’s story time as moms, but they’ve also had similar training with the Transformation Zone. (They are both also certified in “story exploring” and Allison is also certified in Babyread, a program for expectant parents.) Ocracoke School’s Pre-K teacher, Jennifer Daniels and former Pre-K aide Serina O’Neal are also certified in story exploring. Ocracoke’s budding bookworms are lucky to have so many dedicated teachers and volunteers – and even luckier to explore stories with Leslie.

“I love the program and really appreciate all the time and effort Leslie is putting into it,” Allison said. “It has been nice for so many small children to get together and hear a story and interact with each other. Leslie is so good with that kind of programming.”

Explore the Story!

Leslie wants to thank her volunteer helpers: Jean Skipper, Norma Sigal, Zane Szurgot, and Debbie Leonard and sends many thanks to the Ocracoke Assembly of God Church for a great & warm space.

All little ones are welcome to Explore a Story with Leslie!