WOOD RIVER JCT. — With teachers and students dressed as storybook characters, classroom doors decorated in book themes and reading activities taking place throughout the building, it was obvious that something literary was afoot last week at Chariho Middle School.
Dressed as Gryffindor House Head Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter books, Assistant Principal Mary Beth Florenz on Wednesday described the activities taking place during Reading Week.
“Every morning, we start with book quotes,” she said. “We had a video kickoff from the governor — the students had that on Monday — we have library book stations every day including a book-tasting … It’s just so perfect.”
Classroom doors were decorated by students and teachers to reflect book titles, and there was a contest to chose the best door design. “Some of the doors are over-the-top fabulous,” Florenz said.
Several guests, including the interim superintendent, Jane Daly, and principals from the four Chariho elementary schools, were invited to read excerpts from their favorite books. On Friday, everyone in the school was asked to pause for a few minutes in an event called “drop everything and read.”
This was the school’s first-ever reading week. The objective, Florenz explained, was not just to get students to read but to get them excited about reading.
“Kids are so fixed on technology,” she said. “Some students read on their technology too, but a lot of it is gaming and a lot of social media and we know what results we get when children read. Reading is healthy ... reading creates imagination and creativity in students, their vocabulary increases, everything academically.”
The weeklong celebration was organized by librarian and media specialist Sarah DeVito and reading specialists Jacquelyn Shardlow, Erica Sousa and Jennifer Krekorian.
The "book-tasting" was served in the library, complete with tablecloths, napkins and menus.
The purpose, Shardlow explained, was to whet students’ appetites for more reading.
“The purpose of a book-tasting is to expose kids to different books they might not gravitate to, so we’re starting off with some light reads, which is our graphic novels where the pictures tell a lot of the story, then we’re exposing them to different series,” she said. “These are all part of some series. They have a little bit more meat to them. And then we have some sweet endings, with a lot of picture books and poetry.”
Grade 7 students, Kara Anderson and Mia Cleary said they were enjoying the book-tasting and other activities.
“I think this week is so much fun,” Cleary said. “I love to read. I read so much."
Anderson said she preferred books with a bit of suspense. “I like mysteries and kind of, like, haunted books and stuff like that,” she said.
Cleary said, “I really like adventure books. Kind of like a scavenger hunt, and I also really like books that are really suspenseful.”
In another corner, Krekorian pointed out computers that had been set up for children to listen to familiar books read in different languages.
“There’s popular children’s books in different languages for the students to listen to, so it’s ‘Goodnight Moon,’ there’s an Italian book, ‘I am Small,’…it’s fun for them to listen in Chinese, Spanish,” she said.
DeVito said many students were already reading for fun but she hoped more would develop a love of reading.
“We certainly have those kids we see every day because they’re home reading every night,” she said. “I think a high proportion of them do. Get them to read, just for fun. That’s the thing. We want to cultivate that lifelong love of reading.”
Principal Gregory Zenion stood in the library watching the book tasting. Dressed as Harry Potter, right down to the big round glasses, he said he had not expected the event, which took more than a year to plan, to be such a resounding success.
“When we first rolled it out, it did involve a lot of work, and teachers are busy, so I was a little bit concerned, would they buy into it,” he said. “I had no idea that it would roll out at this level. Almost every single door is done and everyone is so involved. The kids really seem to be loving it. Today I checked attendance and we have more kids here than we typically do on a day like this.”