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Julie Andrews and daughter Emma on what parents get wrong about reading

"Nothing could be further from the truth."

No more "waiting in the wings" for this dynamic mother-daughter picture book team. The latest of the three dozen collaborations between Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton hits bookstores on April 23.

Appropriately, “Waiting in the Wings,” is a theatrical tale drawn from real life events.

In 1991, Emma Walton Hamilton and her husband, Stephen Hamilton, a food and beverage director and photographer, co-founded Bay Street Theater, a small regional theater located on a wharf on Long Island, New York.

"One spring, a pair of ducks nested in our courtyard. We were charmed and made every effort to protect them as audiences passed through the courtyard on their way to and from performances," Andrews’ daughter tells

Within an hour after the eggs hatched, Hamilton and the theater staff were shocked to see the ducklings heading "straight for the road" on their way to the water.

"We were very concerned that they were going to be in danger," Hamilton says. "There was a lot of traffic and cars and people and dogs. So we quickly mobilized the entire theater company and we made a human barricade around them all and escorted them down the wharf as the duckings marched."

When the ducks reached the edge of the wharf, they all jumped in, one after the other.

"Except for the littlest one, who I think was too scared of the height," Hamilton says. "I ended up giving the littlest one a tiny push with my finger so that he could jump in and join his siblings and his parents. And they sailed off into the sunset."

How to raise a reader

Hamilton, who teaches children’s literature courses at Stony Brook University, points out that writing for young people is still a "relatively new" concept in the publishing world. It began to flourish in the 1950s, which is coincidentally the time that Andrews began to gain notoriety on film.

Andrews notes that getting a child interested in reading books can often be an uphill climb.

Hamilton wrote "Raising Bookworms" to research how to keep children interested in reading. "The key lies in keeping reading a pleasure. When they first read books, they are being read to because picture books are designed to be read aloud ... "

"And that's terribly important," Andrews interjects. "Put a child on your lap, turn the pages with your finger, read the words out loud and they learn to read so much quicker."

"Well not only that, but they associate reading with love and with pleasure and all things warm and fuzzy," Hamilton adds.

After children go to school and learn to read independently, reading can be more closely associated with the feeling of struggle, responsibility or boredom. "Or embarrassment," Hamilton says, "as they're trying to read aloud in front of their peers."

Hamilton stresses that parents and caregivers should continue reading to their children long after their children can read on their own.

"So often we think, 'I have to support their independent reading skills now. I shouldn't read to them anymore,'" Hamilton says. "But nothing could be further from the truth. We have to keep that connection between reading and pleasure alive."

"So often we think, 'I have to support their independent reading skills now. I shouldn't read to them anymore.' But nothing could be further from the truth. We have to keep that connection between reading and pleasure alive."

Emma Walton Hamilton

As a young mother, Andrews says that even when she was on location for work, she would read a book to her five children every night. “To see them all gathered around and looking forward to hearing a book, especially one that we’re all passionate about; that is such a joy as a mum,” she says.

In addition to reading aloud, parents can continue to show kids that reading is fun by having books in the house, giving books as gifts and taking kids to visit bookstores and libraries. "Have them experience the tactile pleasures of books," says Hamilton.

"And we're great, great admirers of all the wonderful librarians out there who are spectacular, unsung heroes," Andrews adds.

Of "Waiting in the Wings," Hamilton says, "We hope kids will enjoy the book, and maybe take away an increased curiosity about the arts, especially the performing arts."

"And about ducks," Andrews adds without missing a beat.