The story was written on the face of Emory & Henry student Tamasin Swoap as she painted a picture with thousands of words and used silly exaggerative facial expressions while reading to a classroom of first-grade students at Meadowview Elementary recently.
Captivating an audience of wiggly, chatty first-grade students, Swoap mooed like a cow and barked like a dog, evoking bursts of laughter from the children.
“Are you my mother,” a baby bird asked a cow. “How could I be your mother,” said the cow. I am a cow,” read Swoap, at times getting on hands and knees to personify the animals.
Swoap, a first-year student from South Hill, Va., participates in the Emory & Henry Tutoring Program this semester as a storybook reader for young children at the school. “I knew I wanted to work with children when I joined the program, but the opportunity to read to a classroom of students was particularly exciting to me,” she said.
The art of storytelling comes naturally for Swoap, who joined a forensics club in high school. “I had no idea what forensics was until my drama coach told me about it. She told me that it would help me gain experience in public speaking.”
Swoap joined the forensics team in tenth grade as a storyteller, and placed tenth in the state of Virginia with her reading of Are You my Mother by P.D. Eastman. In eleventh grade, Swoap placed third in a regional competition for a speech she wrote. As a high school senior, she and a forensics partner performed a story in which Swoap played eight different characters. “I was the mother, sister, friend, two psychiatrists, a preacher, an evangelical preacher, and her conscience. It was challenging and a lot of fun,” said Swoap.
“I really like performing and presenting in front of people and forensics helped me become more confident in front of people.”
During the semester, Swoap has visited the classrooms at Meadowview Elementary with at least two stories to read to the children. “I introduce myself then ask them what they want to be when they grow up. I then proceed to tell them about public speaking and why it is so important in today’s society. They laugh at my dramatic presentation of the story and try to predict what will happen next. It’s really fun to watch,” said Swoap.
“I have received a lot of hugs and letters from the kids telling me how much they love me. They are really sweet and I look forward to visiting the school every week.”