Northeast Times

Fishtown student star in new children's book

In per­son, Samira Long, 12, is something of a shy, quiet kid.

In print, though, she shines as the star of a new book aimed at help­ing young chil­dren learn to read.

The sixth grader at Fishtown’s Adaire Ele­ment­ary School can be seen smil­ing on the cov­er of Slide!, a new book, writ­ten in Eng­lish and Span­ish, by au­thor Cyn­thia Kreilick of Orefield, Pa., a Philly sub­urb.

In the book, Samira acts as a mod­el, re­peatedly slid­ing down the his­tor­ic Ann New­man Gi­ant Wooden Slide at Smith Play­ground & Play­house in Fair­mount Park — which has been at 33rd and Ox­ford in Brew­erytown since 1905.

“It’s like one of the best slides,” said the book’s au­thor Kreilick. “It’s like an amuse­ment park.”

“It was a lot of fun,” said the re­served Samira.

The idea for the book, Kreilick said, began a few years ago. As an early child­hood edu­cat­or, Kreilick wanted to cre­ate a series of books for the city’s im­mig­rant pop­u­la­tion that fo­cuses on de­vel­op­ing lit­er­acy for young chil­dren while high­light­ing free or low-cost activ­it­ies fam­il­ies can find in Phil­adelphia.

Through her com­pany, Morn­ing Circle Me­dia, she and her daugh­ter Alyssa, a stu­dent at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts — she took all of the pho­tos of Long for Slide! — hope to con­tin­ue the series with fu­ture titles fo­cus­ing on the Please Touch Mu­seum, Fair­mount Park and oth­er at­trac­tions.

“This is what lit­er­acy is all about,” said Kreilick. “And, I love Phil­adelphia.”

About four years ago, while hold­ing a lit­er­acy work­shop at a loc­al day­care cen­ter, Kreilick met Cath­er­ine Long, Samira’s moth­er, and the two began dis­cuss­ing child­hood read­ing.

From those dis­cus­sions sprouted the idea to have Samira mod­el for pho­tos to be used in Kreilick’s planned book on the cen­tury-old slide.

“We think kids are more will­ing to listen and learn from an­oth­er kid,” said Cath­er­ine, in dis­cuss­ing how she and her daugh­ter be­lieved in us­ing pho­tos, in­stead of il­lus­tra­tions, in the book.

She said that by us­ing pho­tos, young chil­dren would be able to identi­fy more eas­ily with the char­ac­ters — and in turn, con­cepts — in the book, hope­fully lead­ing to a bet­ter re­ten­tion of in­form­a­tion.

“Samira is able to get chil­dren to listen bet­ter than I do,” ad­mit­ted Cath­er­ine.

Last week, as the older stu­dents at Adaire Ele­ment­ary School re­ceived re­cog­ni­tion from their prin­cip­al, Mi­chael Rosen­berg, for their par­ti­cip­a­tion in a mu­sic, arts and design after school pro­gram — cre­ated in part­ner­ship with the Port­side Arts Cen­ter — Samira vis­ited a kinder­garten class to read the book to a group of ex­cited 5- and 6-years-olds.

Cath­er­ine said Samira is pop­u­lar fix­ture at Adaire and known by many of the school’s more than 400 pu­pils.

“Every­body knows Samira,” she said. 

This fact was evid­ent when the girl entered a classroom full of young chil­dren; a re­sound­ing “Hi, Samira,” filled the room when she sat in front of the group.

“That’s Samira, she’s the star of the book,” said Kreilick when they entered the room.

Tak­ing a mo­ment to read Slide! to the class, lead by kinder­garten teach­er Tiffany Choi, Samira spoke softly and slowly to al­low the stu­dents a chance to grasp her words as she dis­played the pho­tos of her at Smith Play­ground.

Ac­cord­ing to Choi, read­ing to chil­dren at this age is an im­port­ant part of their early child­hood de­vel­op­ment. In fact, she reads about two or three books a day to the chil­dren nor­mally.

“It’s im­port­ant. It re­af­firms that the kids should read. Then, they will love to read when they grow up,” said Choi.

After the read­ing of the book, Kreilick asked the chil­dren if they en­joyed Samira’s telling of the tale, to which the chil­dren re­spon­ded with a re­sound­ing “Yes!”

But, what might be next for Samira? Could a fu­ture in mod­el­ing be ahead for the pop­u­lar girl who starred in the book?

She didn’t di­vulge her fu­ture plans when asked. In­stead, Samira grinned and said “maybe.”

Also, in sup­port of Smith Play­ground, Kreilick plans to donate one dol­lar from the sale of each book to the his­tor­ic play place. For more in­form­a­tion on Slide! or how to pur­chase the book, vis­it morn­ing­circle­media.com.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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