By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
CTA Vice President Dean Vogel reads aloud to the students at Hoopa Elementary School, which serves the Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe in Hoopa.
Wearing brightly colored pajamas and even brighter smiles, students at Dolores Huerta Elementary School in Lennox walked into the cafeteria. Inside were hockey star Luc Robitaille and actor Jason George, honorary co-chairs of Read Across America (RAA), an event celebrated March 2 in California and the rest of the nation.
“Cool,” many of the students murmured.
“Reading is Cool,” noted CTA Secretary-Treasurer Dan Vaughn, on hand for the celebration. “It’s this year’s theme and it says it all. It’s cool to be here to promote reading. And it’s cool to be promoting something so positive.”
Luc Robitaille, who won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, spent 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and holds the record as the highest-scoring left winger in National Hockey League history. He told the students, many of them English learners, that he was raised in Canada and only spoke French before moving to California.
“I was the guy everybody said wasn’t good enough to make it,” he told the youngsters. “They said I was too small. But I didn’t listen to anybody around me, because I wanted to live my dream. If you want to live your dreams, you have to know how to read. I need to read my contract to know what’s going on in my life.”
Jason George, who appears in the television show “Eli Stone,” confided that what actors do for a living mostly involves reading.
“The acting part is only 20 or 30 minutes and the rest of the day you are reading script after script. The writer uses his imagination and takes the craziest thing he can think of and writes it down so it can come to life. It all comes down to reading what is written on paper.”
George’s mother is a retired teacher and was the leader of her local NEA chapter, so reading was strongly encouraged as a child. Now that he’s the father of a 5-year-old, plus 10-month-old twins, it’s the same in his household.
Robitaille and George took turns reading Snowpeople by Rick and Ryan Zeeb, a book about frozen creatures in search of their own personal identity who learn an important lesson: “Different is brilliant — it’s what makes you YOU.”
The students may have been in pajamas, but they were wide awake and excited about the event.
“It’s important to read,” said a fifth-grade girl. “You get to learn about everything. And you get to learn a lot of new words, too.”
In the San Diego area, CTA President David A. Sanchez celebrated RAA with youngsters at a few locations.
“I feel energized,” he said, after witnessing fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Allen Elementary School in Bonita present a program that included a student-produced film, drama and dance to celebrate RAA. “Seeing the outstanding accomplishments of the students, encouraged by exemplary work by their CTA-member teachers in all the schools I visited, only further motivates me to do everything I can to ensure stable and adequate finances for California’s public schools.”
Hoping to ignite reading at Ethel Phillips School in Sacramento was Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters, who was joined by CTA Board member Dana Dillon in reading to students. Also in Sacramento was CTA Board member Michael Bustos, who accepted a legislative proclamation of Read Across America from Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Norwalk) in a brief ceremony in the Assembly chambers at the Capitol.
CTA Vice President Dean Vogel read to students at Hoopa Elementary School, which serves the Hoopa Valley Indian Tribe in Hoopa Valley. “Reading is the foundation of academic success for children,” said Vogel. “As teachers, the best thing we can do is to help instill them with a love of reading.”
Throughout California, schools celebrated chapter and verse
Riverside: Student drama, dance and band enthusiasts presented their fifth annual Read Across America production of “A Cat in the Hat Celebration” at Norte Vista High School.
Fullerton: Live animals from the “Wonders of Wildlife” group were used to illustrate stories read to children at Commonwealth Elementary School.
Vista: Sixty Marines from Camp Pendleton read to 1,300 students in small groups and also fed the kids green eggs and ham, in festivities at Vista Academy of Arts.
St. Helena: The chief of police administered a “reader’s oath” to all students at St. Helena Primary School, and those reading to kids included local firefighters, police officers, the mayor and superintendent of schools.
Oakland: Honored readers included First Lady of Oakland Cynthia Dellums, Alameda County Schools Superintendent Sheila Jordan, OUSD Interim Superintendent Roberta Mayor, Supervisor Keith Carson, Oakland school board directors, fellow unionists from SEIU 1021, the painters and carpenters union, and others.
- San Jose: Mike Inouye, local traffic anchor for KNTV (NBC), read to first-graders at Blackford Elementary.
- Bakersfield: Rick and Ryan Zeeb read their book Snowpeople at the Majestic Fox Theater; face painting, booths and games were part of the fun.
- Sacramento: Dana Dillon, CTA Board member, and Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters, read to students at Ethel Phillips Elementary School.