When Clara Brogan was 4 years old, she learned to read.
Her father had just passed away and since he was the one who had taught her the letters of the alphabet, her mother thought it would be good for her.
“She thought if I learned to read, I wouldn’t miss him so much,” Brogan recalled.
Fast-forward 90 years, and Brogan’s love of books and reading has never subsided; it’s only seemed to grow.
“Reading is very important to me and has been for a very long, long time,” she said.
Brogan taught music in the Concord School District for 25 years, but since her retirement, she has been inspiring kids to follow her other passion – to read.
Every other Thursday, Brogan makes the trek to Christa McAuliffe school to a second grade class for storytime. But Brogan doesn’t read to the students from a book – she tells them a story.
It’s what led to her being named this year’s Elizabeth Yates Award recipient, given out each year by the Concord Public Library Foundation.
“I was very surprised,” Brogan said of her honor.
Since retiring, Brogan learned the art of storytelling. She took courses and attended workshops in an effort to master the craft of telling a story without just reading it from a book.
“When I retired, I thought ‘Oh what am I going to do now?’ ” Brogan said.
A friend of hers suggested storytelling and after a course at UNH, she was hooked. There’s a formula to telling a story: You learn the persons, the place and the problems in the story. Add in the solution and the time and you’ve got yourself a starting point.
“They take it from me that the story I tell them is in a book in their library,” Brogan said. “So I encourage them to read.”
And she always makes sure the students have their eyes on her and their ears open.
“I just find it interesting that children like to hear a story,” Brogan said.
Brogan has also told stories at Beaver Meadow School, and the former Kimball and Walker schools.
“I’ve taught in almost every school and I’ve storytold in almost every school,” Brogan said. “I just keep moving from place to place.”
The Elizabeth Yates Award honors Yates, a Concord resident and children’s author who was a strong advocate of reading and who supported library programs in the Concord community during her lifetime. The winner of the award is given the opportunity to recommend $500 worth of books to add to the Children’s Room collection, which Brogan left up to the library staff to determine what was needed.