News Column

Taylor Swift Connects Students, Literacy

Oct. 25, 2012

David Mekeel

Taylor Swift

Bubbling with excitement, the kids in Dan Smith's classroom kept their eyes glued to the screen as they shouted along with the countdown slowly ticking away.

Moments after hitting zero, the object of their affection appeared as Taylor Swift's newest music video began to play.

"I love this song," one girl yelled, as she and her classmates began to sway to the music with arms raised in the air.

It was a special treat for Smith's class and others in West Reading Elementary Center, where students got a chance to take part in a live webcast featuring the school's most famous alumna.

The "Read Every Day" event, hosted Wednesday afternoon by children's book publisher Scholastic, featured the 22-year-old Swift answering questions from a live audience in New York and submitted questions by students around the world.

The event, focusing on reading and writing, coincided with the release of Swift's newest album, "Red," which hit stores this week.

Swift, who grew up in Wyomissing, attended West Reading Elementary in the early 2000s.

Principal Corbett Babb said the school worked the webcast into its daily literacy block, an hour in which the entire school focuses on reading.

Swift spoke for 30 minutes, answering questions about everything from how many books she's read in her life (she has no idea) to where she finds inspiration for her songs (friends, family, movies, and, not surprisingly, her romantic relationships).

The Grammy-award winner stressed the importance of reading and writing as outlets for creativity. It's her early experiences with reading, Swift said, that helped set her on the path to becoming a musician who has sold more than 22 million records.

"In school I became obsessed with poetry early on," she said, saying some of her early favorites were Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. "It sounds like a song."

As a fifth-grader at West Reading in 2001, Swift penned a poem that was selected among the top 10 in Pennsylvania in a poetry contest.

She told students on Wednesday that she also was attracted to fairy tales and fantasy stories, saying they give young readers a chance to explore the depths of their imagination.

"It's fun to escape from where you are in your life and jump into another character," she said.

Her young fans in West Reading, who belted out the lyrics along with Swift as she ended the webcast with a song, said they were excited about the singer's message.

"I really think it was inspiring because she told us a lot about her life," said Alexandra Amin, 10.

Classmate Katie Riddle, 10, said that seeing a celebrity talk about the importance of reading could have a big impact on young fans.

"I think that it's good for people to see because people will be more excited to read because Taylor Swift likes reading," she said.

Source: (c)2012 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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