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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Books Are Your Friends

I gotta admit: I'm totally stoked because tomorrow is my favorite party of the year: the annual Glenview Elementary School Read-A-Thon in Oakland.
Next Friday, March 2 – Dr. Seuss's birthday, natch – the kids will put away their schoolwork for the day and do nothing but read for pure pleasure.
And they go at it with gusto, especially the littlest ones, who often come to school that day in their pajamas, dragging their teddy bears and sleeping bags 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.
It's also very smart. When I was their age, the teachers made us read as punishment when we misbehaved. It taught us a bad lesson: Reading is a drag.
But these kids are getting the opposite message: Reading is fun!
The all-day-party is the kids' reward for the previous two weeks, during which they have been knocking on doors in the neighborhood, asking people to sponsor them in the Read-A-Thon.
The kids pledge to read at least 30 minutes every night, and the sponsors pledge to support them by donating to the Glenview PTA.
Now, I'm not crazy about children having to go door-to-door begging for money for their education – we certainly didn't have to in my day - but it's not Glenview's fault. Blame the shortsighted politicians in Sacramento who keep balancing the state's budget by taking money from education.
Without the Read-A-Thon, Glenview's enrichment programs - chorus, art, drama and physical education – would be at risk, as well as the school aides who help out in classrooms and at lunchtime and recess.
And the school takes every step to protect the kids' safety. They must be accompanied by an adult they know personally, and they can knock only on doors of people they know personally.
At the big party next Friday, awards will be given to the student who logged the most reading hours and the class that raised the most money in pledges.
The luckiest kids of all are the ones in Mr. Miller's 2nd grade class. Once again, as he does every year, he's making them an offer they can't refuse: If they can raise $3,000, he'll let them watch while his hair gets cut off and his head shaved.
There's never a cleanup problem. The kids prize the shorn locks as souvenirs, and they scoop them up as soon as they hit the ground.
Once again, some outsiders – including Oakland cops and firefighters; Cal student athletes; writer Leah Waarvick, author of "I Sit and Stay: A Survival Guide for Kids (And Parents Too!" and her dog, Emma; and me – have been invited to read some of our favorite books to the kids.
If you'd like to contribute to the Read-A-Thon, send a tax-deductible check to Glenview Elementary PTA, 4215 La Cresta Ave., Oakland CA 94602.
Or support any school you like. The kids at Glenview aren't rich – almost half receive free lunches, which is a traditional way of measuring poverty – but they're better off than their counterparts at many other schools, where the parents are too poor to even have a PTA.
They all need our help.