By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin and Dave Earl Carpenter
Angel McKinley adjust his chef's hat as he is "served" a fun reading at Gratts Elementary.
This year’s Read Across America theme, “Serve Up a Good Book” — inspired by the children’s book Armadilly Chili, written by Helen Ketteman and illustrated by Will Terry — had members and students across California lining up to savor the joy of reading. The nationwide celebration of books on March 2, an annual event that coincides with the birthday of children’s author Dr. Seuss, included celebrities, parents, city officials and others at events throughout the state.
In San Francisco, Buena Vista Elementary School students listened attentively while CTA President David A. Sanchez read from Armadilly Chili: “Miss Billie Armadilly skit-skat-skittered down the lane. ‘A blue norther’s a-blowin’ and my old, cold bones are rattling for a pot of hot armadilly chili,’ she said.”
“It’s a great way to promote reading at all grade levels,” said Sanchez, who spoke to the dual immersion students in Spanish about the importance of literacy. “It’s a way to encourage family and friends to pick up a book and share and read with one another.”
Reading to the kids along with Sanchez was one of this year’s honorary co-chairs, Will Terry, who is also illustrator of the colorful book. The artist also demonstrated to students how he digitally draws his characters, wowing them as he brought the book’s pages to life before their eyes.
“I am honored to share my books with children,” said Terry, who traveled from Utah to San Francisco for the event. “My audience is children, and celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday with them is wonderful.”
Students had fun and got the message of the importance of reading. “I liked this a lot,” said student Diego Velcich, 6. “Reading is important because it makes you smarter and helps you learn more stuff.”
CTA Vice President Dean Vogel joined RAA honorary co-chair Paul McCullough, an acclaimed Los Angeles chef, at Gratts Elementary School in Los Angeles. Students there were given their own chef hats to celebrate the theme of serving up a good book.
“Watching kids thrilled about reading, sharing stories, laughing… is a real treat!” said Vogel.
“I read cookbooks, I read recipes. Without reading I would not be able to cook,” said Chef McCullough. “It’s a pleasure to share Armadilly Chili with the great students at Gratts Elementary!”
In Buena Park, just south of Los Angeles, Buena Park Teachers Association members at Carl E. Gilbert Elementary celebrated their annual “Read In” and invited Dodger great Jimmy Campanis to read with students.
CTA Secretary-Treasurer Gail Mendes joined the Compton Education Association’s festivities, along with visiting television and movie celebrities, including Rachelle Lefevre of Twilight, Quinton Aaron of The Blind Side, and Raven of “That’s So Raven.” Mendes also visited and read for students in the Inglewood Unified School District at Crozier Middle School and Payne Elementary School.
To celebrate the book’s theme, members of the Riverside City Teachers Association (RCTA) sponsored its second annual chili contest during their RAA event, with different chili recipes prepared by RCTA staff and leaders.
At Sunset Lane Elementary in Fullerton, acclaimed children’s author John Archambault of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and young adult fiction writer Mark Williams of the Danger Boy series read to the students.
President Sanchez had the pleasure of presenting Buena Vista Principal Larry Alegre with boxes of books for the school library. “Despite massive state education funding cuts to our classrooms,” said Sanchez, “California teachers every day inspire our students to see the importance of reading.”
“Read Across America is important because it emphasizes the importance of reading and serves kids who are being seriously betrayed by state government and funding,” said United Educators of San Francisco President Dennis Kelly, who attended the event with UESF Vice President Linda Plack. “Today is nice because we are giving them something.”
RAA partners helped to celebrate
- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists members visited local area schools in and around Los Angeles.
- The Los Angeles County Fire Department sent engines and firefighters to schools across Los Angeles to read and donate books provided by RAA partner Barnes & Noble.
- The Los Angeles Kings sent their mascot Bailey and the Ice Crew to Mitchell Elementary in Lawndale for fun and reading.