Every month we'll highlight a reader in the Great Lakes Bay region and learn more about them, their work, and their reading life. We'll also discuss books and share a conversation about something close to their heart.
Recently, I attended the READ Association of Saginaw County's grand opening/ribbon-cutting of the Carolyn R. Otto Family Literacy Center. That's where I met Emily Schultz, the center's Family Literacy Coordinator. We talked books, of course, and how community members can help students advance their reading skills
Learn more about Emily, her book interests, and how to help make a difference in the lives of kids in the area.
Where do you live?
My husband and I just bought our first home this past September in Pinconning. We lived in Midland for years before that, but we both wanted to live in the country. We love the rural, agricultural setting, the solitude, looking up at the stars at night, and I even enjoy my beautiful commute to work every day (except during blizzards!).
Family, kids, pets?
I’ve been married to my husband Chris for a year and a half. We have two cats – Lizzie and Darcy (they are an indication of my love for books!) and we just recently got a 12-week-old goldendoodle puppy named Gordon.
What book made the biggest impact on you - as a child and/or adult?
The book that has had the biggest impact on me is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. I think Bonhoeffer is one of the greatest theologians of all time and his biography inspired and challenged me. One of his most famous quotes is “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die”. Bonhoeffer is an example of what it looks like to die to oneself in a life of surrender and obedience to Jesus Christ. He stood up against the German government, many of the people, and even the German Church to speak out against the great atrocities of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler. His stance wasn’t popular and it ultimately cost him his life when he was hanged in the Flossenburg POW camp at age 39. He was bold, courageous, and spoke up when most others were silent. His life will forever be an inspiration and example to me of what life as a Christian should look like. Matthew 16: 24-25 says, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul?’”. This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplified so perfectly and I hope I can learn from him and have the same courage and boldness in my faith.
What's the best part of your job with the READ Association?
The best part of my job is getting to work with children and literally see lives being transformed before my eyes. Before I came to the READ Association, I was a preschool teacher and I absolutely loved it. I was hesitant about transitioning to a job with more time spent in an office, but that all changed once the Carolyn R. Otto Family Literacy Center opened. This is the READ Association’s programming space where children come for weekly story-time programs and tutoring in reading, writing, and spelling. I love getting to work with young children on early literacy skills every Wednesday for our story times, and it has been so rewarding to watch our tutoring program slowly grow over time.
What do you want readers to know about tutoring needs?
I want readers to know that there is a HUGE need for tutoring in reading, writing, and spelling in the Saginaw area. There are so many children who are not reading at grade level or cannot even read at all. As readers, we all know the joys of reading and how books allow us to learn, imagine, and travel to far-off destinations. But beyond that, reading is essential to be successful in life. You need to be able to read to do just about anything in life! I already have a waiting list of children who are behind in reading and need tutoring and I know that list will keep growing.
If a reader is interested in learning more, what should they do?
If someone is interested in learning more about tutoring they should contact me! I can be reached by phone at 989-755-8402 or email at Eschultz@readsaginaw.org.
We use the Barton Reading & Spelling System for tutoring which is designed for children with dyslexia but can be used to teach anyone to read. You don’t have to be a teacher or have any educational experience to be a tutor! I offer a three-session training course and the entire tutoring system is completely scripted. There’s no writing lesson plans or curriculum, you just follow the curriculum that is already laid out for you. If you are able to read proficiently yourself, you can become at Barton Tutor! The commitment is twice per week for one-hour sessions. The program just started in October and has been steadily growing, but we can only continue to grow with more volunteer tutors.
Emily with her golden doodle puppy, Gordon
What has been your biggest a-ha working with students?
A few weeks ago one of my students came in for her tutoring session and her tutor asked her how her day at school was. She replied that it had been her second-best day of school ever. When her tutor asked her why, she said that when her teacher was watching her read, she told her that she noticed that she was having an easier time figuring out the words. She had so much excitement and pride as she told us both the story.
That moment just emphasized to me how important our tutoring program is. It will literally change lives. This nine-year-old girl had one of her best days at school ever because she had already made progress in reading and someone noticed. It was an a-ha moment for me to see what a difference this is going to make for her – and every other child we are able to serve.
For parents who have young children, what suggestions do you have to encourage good reading skills?
My biggest suggestion for fostering reading skills with young children is that it is NEVER too early to start reading! There is research that shows that reading to your child while they are still in the womb helps develop early language learning. Reading to your child for 20 minutes every single day is also hugely important, but it’s not the only way to develop literacy and reading skills. Many people don’t realize that one of the best ways to help your child develop their language and literacy skills is by having conversations with them. In depth, back-and-forth conversations help your child to develop language and vocabulary skills that will ultimately help them to read.
What books do kids request or want to read most of the time?
For younger children, the most popular books are any about dinosaurs, princesses, or unicorns! We give away these books as soon as we get them! Some favorite characters that children love are Pete the Cat, Dog Man, and Flat Stanley. I always love the classic children’s books and they are just as popular now with children – authors like Eric Carle, Lois Ehlert, Bill Martin Jr., Audrey Wood, H.A. Rey, etc.
We give away books to children for free at all of our programs and any community events we are a part of. If you or anyone you know are ever looking for a place to donate gently used children’s books, please consider donating them to the READ Association. We are passionate about getting books in hands and helping children build their own personal libraries.
What are some of your favorite non-reading activities?
I love to do anything outdoors. My husband and I love to hike, hunt, camp, and travel together. I used to live in the U.P. and it has been really fun to take trips up there together. We took a trip to the Porcupine Mountains this past summer, and it was a wonderful adventure! I also just love to be cozy at home – mostly with a book, my cats, and a heated blanket. But I also love cooking and baking.