Meet Penny. She's six years old and loves to read. Penny has lots of books of her own. She can already read some easy ones, but she likes to pretend to read favourite picture books she knows by heart. Penny and her family live in the village of Appleglen, near Boomtown.
Meet Buffy. Buffy is supposed to be an outdoor dog, but sometimes on cold wet nights, she sneaks inside the house and lies by the fire. Penny loves to read to Buffy. The dog listens hard and rewards Penny with an occasional lick and uncritical admiration.
Meet Penny's Mum and Dad. They've read aloud to Penny since she was a baby. Dad loves the one-on-one time he gets to spend with his daughter when he reads her books at bedtime. Sometimes he uses silly voices and makes Penny giggle. Mum likes to grab books whenever they go out in the car, and she reads to Penny if they stop in traffic, or maybe at the doctor's. Mum listens to Penny read the little books she brings home from school while she's cooking dinner. Both Mum and Dad love to read too, and Penny often sees them reading, writing and playing with words.
Meet Grandpa Prickle. Grandpa loves to make Penny laugh, and he tells her jokes and riddles. Now she's six, he takes Penny shopping when it's her birthday, so she can choose her own books and toys. They always have a chocolate milkshake afterwards, and Grandpa pretends he can't read shop signs so Penny has to help him.
Meet Ms Magic. She is the children's librarian at the Boomtown Local Library. Ms Magic knows Penny's name, and always takes an interest in what books she's borrowing. Ms Magic invites Penny to Storytime, where Ms Magic brings wonderful books to life for the youngsters who attend.
Meet Mr Puffalot. He's the mayor of Boomtown. Apart from Football magazines, he's never been much of a reader, but he believes that reading is essential for children's future success. He uses his influence in the town to ensure the library has a decent budget for buying wonderful children's books. And Football magazines.
Meet Jasmyn and Tegan. They live near Penny and often invite her to join their games. They're both ten and are teaching Penny all the skipping rhymes and chants they learn at school. Tegan has a piano at her house, and sometimes the girls make up little tunes and songs with it.
Meet Mr Ink. Penny sometimes sees him when he's sitting reading at the bus stop. He gets off the bus at Boomtown Publishing where he is the chief editor. Mr Ink sets very high standards in the company. He loves quality children's literature and tries to find the best writers, illustrators and editors to work with him.
Meet Mrs Sweetling. She teaches Year One in Appleglen Primary School. Mrs Sweetling is passionate about children's literature and her curriculum is based around it. Penny knows Mrs Sweetling thinks she is wonderful, and loves to tell her teacher about the books she's read.
Meet Billy's dad. He comes along as a volunteer parent to the Year One classroom because he wants Billy to know he values education. Penny and Billy both love to read to Billy's dad, and he expresses to each of them how much he enjoys their stories.
Meet Mary Macnary. She's a children's writer who somehow manages to write text simple enough for young readers, yet enjoyable as stories in their own right. Penny loves books like Mrs Washalot, and The Crazy Caterpillar. Dad helped Penny locate Mary Macnary's website. Penny can find all her favourite characters there, and play little games about stories she knows.
In villages around the world, people just like these are influencing young readers. All of these people are positive role models, so I like to think of them as raising or lifting kids to the wonderful heights that being able to read confers on us. We can all play a part in raising readers: by surrounding kids in print, by having regular read-alouds, by modelling our own love of reading, by lobbying politicians to fund libraries and education, by blogging about and promoting children's literature and literacy.
It takes a village to raise a reader, so let's raise 'em! And please share any other good ideas you have for growing little bookworms.
[I made the cartoon above at Toon Doo, a great place for kids and chooks who like to read and write cartoons.)