Read Across America drew more than a dozen readers into Gess Elementary last Friday. The readers, representing a wide spectrum of the Chewelah community, demonstrated just how much joy can be found in a good book.
Sixth grade students listened enthusiastically as Sam Bradley, the owner of Bradley Tae Kwon Do, read a fictional story about a martial arts student trying to progress to the next level of proficiency. “Is that really how you do it when you take a test?” one student asked. Others queried: “Have you ever broken cement? Does it hurt?”
The sixth-grader’s questions helped demonstrate the important links students make between books and real life. That connection was emphasized even more as Ms. Bradley talked about the importance of reading in her career. Technical manuals, she explained to the students, are a critical part of developing expertise because in addition to specific information about form, they also provide the meaning of each level and the history of Tae Kwan Do. “It’s not just kicking. There’s also a lot of knowledge involved.”
Ms. Bradley went on to explain how important careful reading is to business owners. “There’s record keeping, of course. And I have to read the new tax laws,” she said.
One student chirped in: “My mom reads all the time. She has a Kindle,” and the teacher responded, “I’m not surprised. I know how intelligent she is.” He continued: “It’s like the chicken and the egg. “Do we read because we’re intelligent? Or do we become intelligent because we read?” His words elicited a wave of thoughtful expressions among the sixth graders.
Students in all grades demonstrated the same curiosity and enthusiasm. “The kids are so responsive,” said Susan Bristol. “I asked if anyone knew what the country of Persia is called today, and the hands all went up. They knew it was Iran,” she said. “Is that smart or what?”
While there is no doubt about the benefits to students, many of the adults say they get as much out of the experience as the students. “I enjoy seeing the kids smile when they hear a good story,” said Chewelah Police Officer John Bowers. His feelings were echoed by Margaret Retherford. Like Officer Bowers, she has participated in Read across America events in the past. “If it falls on a day when I’m working, I take the day off,” she said.
Other readers participated for the first time this year. Kathleen Cunningham, who owns Camo’d Arrow, volunteered to come back on a regular basis to read to children, or listen to them read. So did John Grumbach. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life,” he said.
Salty Parrot knows the feeling. He visits school on a regular basis, hoping to motivate students to read. “It’s something I get to give back,” he said. “I grew up in Los Angeles. A lot of the kids didn’t have a male role model.” He thinks it’s important for males to volunteer and show students how important reading is to adults.
Gess Principal Jerry Pugh expresses his gratitude to the community readers. “Any time we can show our students that what they are learning at Gess Elementary will have a positive impact on their future, we are thrilled. Connecting school to the community is critical to the success of our students.”
Submitted by Sheryl Templeton
In This Photo: Chewelah Businesswoman Katherine Cunningham, owner of Camo’d Arrow, shared a book with a room full of enthusiastic second graders in Mrs. Kennedy’s class last Friday, as part of Read Across America. Gess Elementary photo