By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Students enjoy a reading by Honorary Chair Tom Pizzica and CTA President David A. Sanchez at Las Americas Preschool in San Francisco.
Youngsters at Las Americas Preschool in San Francisco were so captivated by the reading of Armadilly Chili that they begged for a second helping when the story ended.
“Again!” they implored CTA President David A. Sanchez when he finished the final page. “Again!”
They were among millions of children throughout California and the rest of the nation celebrating Read Across America, a March 2 tradition sponsored by NEA and CTA designed to foster a love of reading in children. CTA members were joined by celebrities, parents and city officials at many participating school sites, and Las Americas Preschool was no exception. Chef Tom Pizzica, host of “Outrageous Food” on the Food Network, shared reading duties with Sanchez.
“When you have a book you can’t put down, it’s a great feeling,” said Pizzica, one of three honorary co-chairs for RAA, whose theme this year was “Serve Up a Good Book.” (Another co-chair was Joan Scharff, vice president of Garden Fresh Corp.)
The youngsters were hungry for more, and Sanchez asked them in both English and Spanish to answer questions about Armadilly Chili, a book written by Helen Ketteman that emphasizes cooking and friendship as essential ingredients in life. Afterward the youngsters happily donned paper chef hats distributed by the adults.
“I like reading,” said 4-year-old Rafael. “It helps you to learn about people, animals, cooking and other things.”
“We really should be celebrating reading every day,” said
Sanchez. “It’s wonderful when parents and friends take the opportunity to model reading for our students so they can be good readers themselves.”
Unfortunately, budget cuts may threaten children’s access to books and school libraries, said Dennis Kelly, president of United Educators of San Francisco, who attended the festivities along with Bonnie Shatun, CTA Board liaison for the statewide event.
Farther south at the Toyota Learning Center at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, “The Next Food Network Star” finalist and honorary RAA co-chair Doreen Fang joined CTA Vice President Dean Vogel and CTA Board member Mikki Cichocki to spend the morning reading Armadilly Chili to ill and recuperating children. The facility’s teacher, Lee Anne Gridley, is a member of the San Bernardino County Teachers Association.
Vogel concluded the celebration by distributing chef’s hats, which the smiling youngsters and teenagers wore enthusiastically.
“No matter how sick these kids are, you can see the light in their eyes and the hope there,” said Vogel. “We do large and small Read Across America events, but the intimacy of this setting with these kids and their reaction is really uplifting.”
Fang attended school in the Loma Linda area. “It’s been a really moving experience to help make these kids feel a little better about being in the hospital,” she said. “Reading is so important and a great way to help them use their imaginations to take them anywhere.” As the morning concluded, the young patients lined up eagerly for an autographed donated book and a big hug from the culinary star.
In Lakeview Elementary School in San Diego County, students in the first-grade classroom of Lakeside Teachers Association President Cathy Zmijewski were joined by CTA Secretary-Treasurer Gail Mendes and CTA Board member Jim Groth. After the readings, each student received a white chef’s hat and a certificate for a free meal, all courtesy of new RAA partner Souplantation.