Geddes: Best-selling author speaks at Westhill

Award-winning author Jim Trelease brought his anecdotal style to Westhill high school on Wednesday night to an audience of parents and teachers.

Trelease's work, The Read-Aloud Handbook, is now in its sixth edition and has been published in five different languages, with two million copies currently in print. It is the all-time best-selling guide to children's literature for parents and teachers.

Trelease was suffering from a cold, and told the audience about his 5 a.m. trip to the airport while sipping on chicken soup, or "Jewish penicillin," as he calls it.

The message in the New Jersey-native's presentation was spelled out in-between pics of his grandkids and anecdotes: Children who have parents who read and read to their kids will become readers for life.

"You can't catch the love from reading from parents who don't have it," Trelease said with a congested voice. "The highest reading scores [among children] come from parents who have magazines, newspapers and books in their house. You can't learn in a vacuum."

Trelease earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1963. After a stint in the military he worked as an award-winning artist and author for the Springfield (MA) Daily News (now the Springfield Republican). He began volunteering his time weekly at local schools to explain the benefits of careers in the fields of art and journalism. After extensive personal research in the direct correlation between students' performance in school and their reading habits, Trelease compsed his findings in the Read-Aloud Handbook. After being turned down by six other publishers, Penguin USA published the book in 1982. It went on to spend 17 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list, and in 1995 the book became the all-time best-selling guide to children's literature for parents and teachers.

Trelease feels that the government puts too much emphasis on teachers to carry the burden of teaching children how to read, but fails to hold parents accountable. He points out that children spend over 900 hours per-year in school, but over 7,800 hours outside of the classroom.

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