A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reading for fun

On March 2, students at Glenview Elementary School in Oakland will start knocking on doors to ask for donations to the school's annual Read-A-Thon, which funds essentials that have been cut from the school's budget because of the reduction in state funding.
The kids will ask people to sponsor their after-school reading, which they’ll be carefully tracking in their logbooks.
The theme of this year's Read-A-Thon is "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" - the title of Dr. Seuss's final book, which is only fitting because March 2 is Dr. Seuss's birthday. (He would have been 106.)
The fundraising will go on for two weeks until March 16, when the children will celebrate with an all-day reading party at the school. For one day, they'll put aside their regular schoolwork and do nothing but read for sure pleasure.
Some of the littlest kids come to school in their P.J.'s, dragging their sleeping bags and teddy bears behind them.
Using blankets and chairs, they make "forts" in the middle of the classroom. Then they crawl inside and read, read, read to their heart's content. It doesn't get much cuter than that.
Once again, second grade teacher John Miller has made his students an offer they can't refuse: If they log 2,000 hours of reading, he'll let them cut his hair off.
"We won't have to sweep up afterward," he says. "The kids think a clump of my hair would be a great souvenir, so they scoop it up as soon as it hits the ground."
Grownup celebrities will be on hand to read to them, too, including Channel 5 anchor Wendy Tokuda, authors Tracy Johnston and Leah Waarvick, and Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente.
Local merchants are also helping, such as Ultimate Grounds on Park Boulevard, which is holding "Sponsor A Book Plate" day on March 6. (Buy a book for the school library and you'll get a free bagel and cup of coffee.)
Others - including Head Over Heels Gymnastics, Legoland California, Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Pump It Up, Snapshot Mosaics, Brushstrokes, Boomers, Castro Village Bowl and Bookmark Bookstore - are donating prizes for the students who log the most hours and bring in the most donations.
If you want to help, send a tax-deductible check to Glenview Elementary PTA, 4215 La Cresta Ave., Oakland CA 94602. Or better yet, why not contribute to the school nearest you? Just give them a call and ask what they need. I guarantee: They'll give you a wish list as long as your arm.
A lot has changed since I was the same age as these kids - some for the worse, some for the better.
On the downside, I never had to go door-to-door raising money to keep my school afloat, and it irks me that these kids have to.
True, every effort is made to keep them safe. They have to be accompanied by an adult they know, and they can only knock on the doors of people they know. But still, they shouldn't have to beg for something that should be theirs as a matter of right.
On the other hand, when I was their age, reading was something your teachers made you do when you misbehaved. It was treated as a punishment. Today, it's treated as a reward.
Which approach do you think is more effective?