CANASERAGA — Not every school principal would sit on the school roof and then on top of a bus to demonstrate the importance of reading, but Shannon Gilbert did last week.
Why would the respected principal crawl to the heights of the Canaseraga Central campus to read to a couple hundred kids at 8 o‘clock in the morning, read aloud all day to district students and then climb onto the roof of bus number 62 for more out-loud reading when the final school bell rang at 3 p.m.?
The answer from Canaseraga Central Librarian Julie Kurtz described the enthusiasm Gilbert and school staff had for a day-long read-a-thon: Virtually the entire staff were “participating in the Principal's Reading Challenge, a nationwide event the Pizza Hut Book It! program has sponsored for more than three decades.”
The company designates National Young Readers' Week each year. During that week principals nationwide pick one day to read from the beginning of the school day until the final bell. Later this month, the pizza purveyor staff will select one school to receive free books for their entire elementary school.
Every student who participates can post pictures to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, the librarian said.
Pizza Hut on its website with typical commercial understatement said the “program started in 1984 and that millions of minutes are read nationwide every year. As the largest and longest-running corporate supported reading program, BOOK IT! is now fostering its second generation of program alumni.”
The program objective, Kurtz said, “is to encourage and promote reading and to establish the principal as the school reading leader and a great role model. It’s a fun way to inspire readers and reading.”
Kurtz said “Most schools have the principal read in one location all day. Canaseraga teachers and students decided on a more creative approach: let the students choose where she will read throughout the day. Students in pre-K through sixth-grade suggested places and teachers reduced the number to 10 locations.”
The selection process also became a fund-raising opportunity. Kurtz said teachers then let kids vote with pennies for three days to select the top sites for the principal to show off her reading skills. The places the students chose included in a garbage can, on the roof, on top of a school bus, in a locker, singing a book in the music room and reading from the top of Superintendent Chad Groff's desk, the librarian said.
Kurtz made “a chart so kids could track the progress of their favorite choices. We’re donating the money from the penny vote to a local charity, The Spirit of Christmas fund. Students donated $120.51 which is really amazingly generous for our small school.” After the vote, Kurtz said the principal will read “in these inspired places plus classrooms throughout the day. The kids are very excited. It should be a great day!”
Superintendent Groff dead-panned early on the actual day “Mrs. Gilbert will be reading in some interesting places.”
Librarian Kurtz described Gilbert’s larynx-demanding day: “She did it! Mrs. Gilbert greeted the students from the roof in the morning, said good-bye to them from on top of a school bus and read all throughout the day. It was great! The kids loved it!”
The most enthusiastic participant may have been Gilbert.
“I had such a blast reading to our students for an entire school day!” she said softly. “Reading is such an essential part of a child's education. To share this experience with our students was a great pleasure!”
Her final summary of the day was said with a soft murmur but without resorting to a whisper from her hyperactive-for-a-day larynx.