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 20, 2011

Reading For Fun

Once again, as they have every year for the past 13 years, students from Glenview Elementary School in Oakland are knocking on doors in the neighborhood, asking people to sponsor them in the annual Glenview Read-a-thon.
The kids pledge to read for at least 30 minutes every night, and the sponsors pledge to support them by donating to the Glenview PTA.
This year, the kids are trying to raise $30,000 to fill the gaps in the school's budget created by the latest round of cuts from Sacramento.
At risk are the school's enrichment programs - chorus, art, drama and physical education - as well as the school aides who help out in classrooms and at recess and lunchtime.
For the children's protection, there are two hard-and-fast rules: They must be accompanied by an adult they know personally, and they can knock only on doors of people they know personally.
As a reward for their efforts, the kids will be treated to a unique all-day party next Wednesday, March 2, which - by no coincidence at all - is Dr. Seuss's birthday. (He would have been 107.)
For that one day, they will be allowed to put aside their schoolwork and do nothing but read, read, read all day for sheer pleasure.
Smart, huh? By making reading a reward, the kids learn a lesson they will carry with them for the rest of their lives: Reading is fun!
And the kids take to it with a passion. Some of the younger ones come to school in their PJs, dragging their sleeping bags and teddy bears behind them.
Using chairs and blankets, they make forts in the middle of the classroom, climb in with their favorite books, and read to their heart's content. It's beyond cute.
Once again, teacher John Miller is offering his 2nd graders an added incentive: If they can raise $2,500 in pledges, he'll let them watch while his hair gets cut off.
There's never a cleanup problem afterward. The kids prize the shorn locks as souvenirs, and they scoop the hair up as soon as it hits the ground.
And once again, grownup celebrities - including KPIX anchor Wendy Tokuda, Oakland City Council President Ignacio de la Fuente, and local police and firefighters - will be on hand to read to the kids.
If you'd like to contribute to this very worthy cause, send a tax-deductible check to Glenview Elementary PTA, 4215 La Cresta Ave., Oakland CA 94602.
P.S. I'll be at the Read-a-thon, too, reading from one of my Freddy the Pig books, which I consider to be on a par with "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little." And there's no higher recommendation than that.
Overlook Press has just issued paperback versions of three of my favorite Freddy books - "Freddy the Detective," "Freddy the Politician" and "Freddy and the Bean Home News," with the other 23 in this classic children's series soon to follow.
The Freddy books were written between 1927 and 1958 by Walter R. Brooks, whose other claim to fame is that he's the guy who invented Mr. Ed, the talking horse. If you know any kids in the 3rd, 4th or 5th grade, you couldn't ask for a better present to give them.

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