Best Route to Literacy: Reading to Kids

February 16, 2011 5:43 AM

Alicia Duplessis Jasmin

Berthe Amoss, a Newcomb College alumna and award-winning author and illustrator, believes that literacy depends on the involvement of parents in the early stages of a child’s development. In keeping with this belief, Amoss helped encourage reading by speaking with parents and their young children during a literacy event sponsored by Mortar Board in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood on Saturday (Feb. 12).

Tulane Empowers


Author Berthe Amoss participates in a Mortar Board literacy event in the Lower Ninth Ward on Saturday (Feb. 12). (Photos by Paula Burch-Celentano).

During the weekly Sankofa Farmer’s Market, Amoss sat at a table covered with more than 125 books and activities for children and young adults. 

The books and activities were provided for free as part of a grant awarded to the Tulane chapter of Mortar Board.

“An interest in reading starts with the parents because children have to learn that there’s something good between the covers of the book,” says Amoss. “If they get to a place where textbooks are all they know, they’ll resist.”

Lifting from the table a copy of The Cajun Gingerbread Boy, which she wrote and illustrated, Amoss removed the cardboard gingerbread cutout from the cover to demonstrate how the book is designed to be interactive. 

mortar board3

Tulane students from the Mortar Board organization, right, talk with community members at Saturday’s event.

“See, you can move him from page to page so the child can feel they are part of the story,” Amoss explains.

Lindsey Peller, a senior majoring in cell and molecular biology, serves as president of Mortar Board, a national honor society of college seniors. Peller organized the literacy event.

“Our organization is big on literacy so we wanted to host an event that promoted literacy while targeting the Lower Ninth Ward community,” says Peller. “When I found out that Mrs. Amoss was a Newcomb graduate and an author who still lives in New Orleans, I knew right away that she would be great.”

Amoss earned her BA in 1946 and a master’s degree in English from Tulane in 1986.


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