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The Times
  • Storytelling tips from Herkimer BOCES students receive response from Michelle Obama

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  • HERKIMER — Students in the early childhood education program at Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES this school year sent tips for reading to children to First Lady Michelle Obama and received a response from her.
    Instructor Kim Fragetta had been teaching the students storytelling techniques
    One day, they watched video clips of the first lady reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” One reading was at a children’s hospital, and the other was on stage with Kermit the Frog.
    “We enjoyed your strong, powerful voice and think that by adding more enthusiasm the children will enjoy the story even more,” the students wrote in their letter. “When you read at the children’s hospital, the background scenery added to the experience. Using props makes the environment more comfortable and special. For instance, you were much more energetic and relaxed when you read with Kermit the Frog. Being able to have interaction with a prop gave you something to feed off of to improve your connection with the children.”
    The students sent the letter and a photo of the class in October 2013. They first received a response on Jan. 13 from Andrea Mokros, special assistant to the president and director of strategic planning from the Office of the First Lady. The letter thanked the students for writing and respectfully declined an invitation in the letter for the first lady to read to preschool students at Herkimer BOCES because of the large number of requests she receives.
    This response also included photos of the whole Obama family — including President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, their daughters Malia and Sasha and their dog Bo.
    There also were workbooks titled “A Day in the Life of Bo” for the preschool children.
    Then, Michelle Obama sent her own response letter.
    “Thank you for writing to me in the White House,” Michelle Obama wrote in part of her response. “It brings me such joy to hear the views and ideas of thoughtful young Americans, and I was especially happy to hear from you. Young people have a special role to play in building our great nation. That is why it is vital to focus on your education and actively engage in our community. There is nothing more important or more empowering than investing in your education. No matter what you do in life, an excellent education is critical to your development as an independent person.”
    The whole process was an educational opportunity for the students as they learned about reading techniques and were able to put them to use by offering constructive criticism to the first lady, Fragetta said.
    Also, it was a memorable experience.
    “We were very excited to get a response,” she said.
    The other tips students offered Michelle Obama as “some ideas to help make the great experiences you have created even better” are as follows:
    Page 2 of 2 - • Before reading, state the author and illustrator.
    • Hold the book to the side so all children can see the illustrations while you read.
    • Make eye contact with the children, so you know they are paying attention.
    • Involve the children in the experience by inviting them to join in on special words or phrases (such as reindeer names).
    • Make sure you are able to enjoy the experiences as much as you want the children to.
    Michelle Obama was appreciative in her response letter.
    “You have an exciting life ahead of you and if you keep working hard, you can change the course of your own life, as well as the course of history,” she wrote. “Thank you again for your letter. Keep up the good work!”

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