Mercy Professor Reads to Immigrant Children For The Love of Storytelling


Professor Wendy Mages, Ed.D. has led several events for the Cabrini Immigrant Service’s StoryTelling, Art, Reading, and Socialization (STARS) program. This program is designated to promote literacy and love for books and Mages thought it was her perfect fit.

Before being invited to the STARS program, Mages had been in a similar program before and was very excited to participate in a similar program.

 “Before I started graduate school, I was part of Book PALS in Chicago. As a member of Book PALS, I went to afterschool programs to read books to children,” said Mages, who really enjoys working with young learners and introducing them to books they might not have found on their own. “So, when Lorraine Campanelli invited me to read stories for the STARS program, I was excited to participate.” 

Mages also brings up the idea of how important it is for children to feel connected to the book.

This is why in every reading session she tries her best for children to have a self-to-text connection with the book.

“I call on them to share an idea or to predict what might happen next in the book. Children feel special when their thoughts and experiences are honored and appreciated. So, I try to give every child a chance to share an opinion or to make a “self-to-text connection” by relating a personal experience that’s similar to one described in the book.”

Making these children feel special is crucial for them. Many of them are experiencing a culture shock and making them feel comfortable is extremely supportive in these types of situations. Mages has made memorable moments during these reading sessions but there was one in particular that will always be memorable. The Mercy College news page originally posted this situation during a reading session at (CIS).

“At another STARS event in December, a new child — a recent immigrant — joined in. As the children headed to the art area, a boy who is a frequent STARS participant and a fluent English speaker turned to the new boy and said, “I speak Spanish. Come sit with me. I can translate for you.”

This was a memorable moment for Mages. “I can’t think of a better way to help a new immigrant feel welcome than by making a new friend who can support you as you learn English and adjust to your new surroundings.”

Mages went on to say how memorable this event was for her and this is the type of safe environment she wants children to feel when they are in the reading sessions. There was also another memorable moment that she was able to experience. Mages shared a time when she was able to experience maternal love among children and parents.

 She said it began by reading I Love You Forever, a picture book by Robert Munsch (1995). She read it in English and had an intern read it in Spanish. “Then we engaged everyone in a conversation about love and maternal love, in particular. I was delighted to see how willing the moms and grandmoms were to share their thoughts and experiences. It was a lovely way to celebrate each of them and all that they do for their families.”

It feels good to see Mages with this passion for storytelling and express this love and joy to the children in the program. Not only are these reading sessions fun and joyful but Mages also mentioned how important it is for many learning purposes. 

“I think book reading sessions are very beneficial for all children, particularly for English-language learners. Book reading introduces children to a language often more sophisticated than the language they might hear in everyday conversations. Introducing children to book language and engaging them in conversations about books can foster their language and literacy skills. This can be particularly important for children whose home language is not English.”

Many children in this program are English-language learners and these sessions are beneficial to them because it helps them with pronunciation and writing skills. 

These events are beneficial to children’s learning and they seem to be having a really good time at Dr. Mages’s reading events in the STARS program.

 Prof. Mages pondered the question of how does she feel after reading to the children in Cabrini Immigrant Services?

She said, “I really enjoy reading with the children and I love sharing stories that interest them. They bring a lot of joy and energy to the sessions. So, after the sessions, I feel energized, as well as a sense of fulfillment.”