Readers Are Leaders | Tahoe Lake Elementary principal hungry for reading |

Readers Are Leaders | Tahoe Lake Elementary principal hungry for reading

Stephanie Foucek wouldn't mind being snowed in with a stack of books for days and days and days.
Courtesy Tom Lippert |

Tahoe Lake Elementary School Principal Stephanie Foucek is featured in this week’s Readers Are Leaders, a series of interviews about the impact of reading in the lives and careers of local leaders. To read past interviews with leaders who are readers, visit, keyword “Readers.”

Is reading important in your life/career? How so?

I have always loved reading, and can’t imagine a day in which I don’t read something. I read to learn for my work at school, and I read at home with our children, and I read to relax at the end of every day. I always have two or three books going at a time, and love visiting the library to check out a new stack.

What is your favorite children’s book?

There are so many, but some I can read again and again and again and enjoy just as much with each re-read like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” The Little House on the Prairie series, “Guess How Much I Love You,” “The Giving Tree,” the Harry Potter books, “Heidi,” “Little Women, Little Men,” and pretty much every Newbery award and honor book!

If you were snowed in at a backcountry hut, what reading material would you want to have with you?

I have several go-to reads for snowy days! It’s hard to beat the Harry Potter books when it’s too snowy to get outside because they are awesome to read aloud or to yourself. Jane Eyre is another great winter read. As long as I had a big stack of books and a roaring fire, I’d love to be snowed in in the backcountry!

Why do you think readers are leaders?

Reading a variety of books and other texts helps us understand the world and broaden our horizons beyond what any one person could ever experience without reading. I think one of the most important aspects of leadership is the ability to understand someone else’s point of view, and reading widely is the best way I know to help create understanding. I read for enjoyment, and I read to learn on a daily basis.

Where is your favorite place to read/when is your favorite time to read?

I read pretty much anywhere and everywhere, but some favorite spots are by the lake or in front of a roaring fire.

What is your child’s favorite book and why?

Our girls’ bookshelves are full, and their favorites change often. We started reading the Magic Treehouse books together this summer, and they have been fun to read and discuss as a family.

What is your favorite character in a book and why?

Again, there are so many, but you can’t go wrong with Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” We all can learn a lot from Atticus Finch!


Developing the foundation for reading begins very early in a child’s life. If a child does not read proficiently by the end of third grade, his chance for future academic success diminishes. Over the past several years, the wide gap in proficiency between low and higher income children has spawned a national call to action and was the impetus for the formation of our local initiative, “Tahoe Truckee Reads.”

Parents and teachers of children birth to age 5 play a vital role in helping children develop the foundation for reading. Beginning at birth, talking, singing and reading to children provides them with reading’s secret weapon — a growing and rich vocabulary. The importance of vocabulary development cannot be overstated. By age 3, higher income children have been exposed to an average of 30 million more words than low income children. This gap at age 3 leads to a gap in school readiness at 5 and an academic gap in reading at the end of third grade.


“The Magic of Words” by S.B. Neuman and T.S Wright, published in “The American Educator,” Summer 2014, highlights new research on infant, toddler and preschool vocabulary attainment and provides hopeful findings for narrowing the vocabulary gap. Studies cited reveal that while environmental factors impact emergent literacy as early as 15 months, the development of vocabulary is greatest in the preschool years, which means intentional teaching in the preschool years can positively impact vocabulary and school readiness at age 5 and the quantity, quality and responsiveness of parent/teacher talk can overcome socio-economic differences.

Research on vocabulary development also challenges commonly held beliefs. For instance, “Children are word sponges.” Rather than having a natural ability to pick up words, children learn and fully comprehend words through a long process that demands much repetition. Studies of storybook reading to children show traditional reading of stories and even story reading that is “dialogic,” involving children in a dialogue during the story, may not be sufficient to implant vocabulary. Augmenting activities, beyond reading the book, should be provided to reinforce the understanding and retention of new vocabulary words.

You can access “The Magic of Words” at

Submitted by Ruth Jackson Hall, TTUSD early learning coordinator.

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