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Memorial Students to Read Their Way Around the World

Representing Antarctica was school Principal, Lisa Burns, wearing continent-appropriate "penguin" attire.

With the aid of parents, teachers, creative costuming and musical interludes, children at Memorial Elementary School were treated to a trip around the world, on Friday, January 20.

The school gymnasium served as a temporary runway and as the public address system announced the incoming flight, a "plane" taxied into view, to the strains of Sinatra's Come Fly With Me.

Aboard the flight were a crew of parents and teachers, dressed in Pan-Am-style stewardess uniforms. Leading the procession of flight attendants was head stewardess, master of ceremonies for the event and Assistant Principal, Lisa Firth. Firth, whose costume drew roars of approval from the audience, invited the children to join the crew for an excursion All Around the World", as Memorial Elementary kicked off their annual Books and Beyond reading program.

The national program, which is a "recreational reading program, designed to increase reading outside the classroom and help parents promote literacy behaviors at home" is in its third year at Memorial.

"(Prior to Books and Beyond) Memorial never had a reading program," explained Ann Hobart, of the Books and Beyond Planning Committee. "I was on School Council with (former Principal) Andy Anderson and he presented it. I took it over, knowing a lot of mothers that have children that read well and enjoy reading." Other Planning Committee members are: Lisa Borges, Lucia Coplan, Stephanie Dutcher, Amy Croteau, Beth Fraser and Sue Jansons.

"Today," Hobart explained, "is the kick-off. The parents will get their information to take home and the record sheet that the kids use to write down their books." The kick-off, she noted, was intended to "get the kids excited. "The first year, we didn't do this. It was a learning year - to figure out what we were doing. Then, last year, we did a kick-off which was so successful because the kids got excited and went home to their parents and said 'I really want to do this'." The kick-off, Hobart noted was orchestrated by Assistant Principal, Lisa Firth.

"Welcome," head stewardess Firth announced. "We are going to fly across the world, reading from continent to continent." She reminded the students that continents are "those big land masses on the planet" and for those who may have been uncertain, she clarified that "we are in the continent of North America ... made up of the countries of Canada, the United States and Mexico." With that explanation, a parade of children began to enter the room, carrying flags from various countries representing the seven continents. Oh Canada, Born In the U.S.A. and appropriate mariachi music accompanied the North American contingent. South America was well represented by the strains of Don't Cry For Me Argentina and Antarctica's by Cold As Ice, though its ambassador, Principal Lisa Burns, dressed in a penguin costume, didn't seem to mind.

Following the procession, Firth explained that the students who participate in Books and Beyond would be expected to read 175 pages or seven books per week. Some of the books, she noted, could be picture books. Upon completing their assignment, the students will "earn" a continent and "their plane" would be free to fly to the next continental destination. Their overall progress would be posted in the cafeteria.

Those students who read enough pages to visit all seven continents and then return to North America, will be invited to attend an awards ceremony, which will be held on April 11. Special guest for the ceremony, the children were told, will be Wally, the Green Monster from the Boston Red Sox. "I know him!" several children offered.

The goal of the Books and Beyond program has six objectives:

1. To motivate children to read for fun and fall in love with reading and books.

2. To actively engage parents as partners in their children's education.

3. To offer staff development that helps teachers improve students' reading.

4. To develop community partnerships that support literacy.

5. To provide additional opportunities for children to practice their reading skills.

6. To help families learn to moderate their television viewing.

The Books and Beyond program is once again being funded through a grant from Target.


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