On Friday, March 1, students and staff at Colebrookdale Elementary School (CES) spent the day celebrating books, reading, and the work of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss, culminating in a lively afternoon assembly in the school’s all-purpose room.
Students and staff members were invited to dress up like their favorite characters from Dr. Seuss books and many complied, leading to hallways brimming with Thing 1, Thing 2, the Lorax, and the Cat in the Hat. During the day, guest readers including school board members and high school students were welcomed into classrooms throughout the school to share their love of books by reading to the children.
Although Friday was the official Read Across America Day, CES had already been celebrating reading during the entire month of February by taking part in the “Principal’s Challenge.”
Ever since Michael Stoudt became CES principal three years ago, he has been challenging the students to read throughout the entire month of February. Students keep weekly logs of the number of pages they read each day and when the total pages are tallied at the end of the month, if the number has exceeded the Principal’s Challenge number, then he completes a stunt of the students’ choosing.
In 2011, students exceeded Stoudt’s first challenge, which lead to him being duct taped to a wall for the afternoon. In 2012, again the students surpassed the reading goal and Stoudt lived up to his end of the bargain by having his hair shaved off.
This year the challenge was to read 125,000 pages and the prize for completing the challenge was getting to treat Principal Stoudt like a human hot dog, which was motivation enough for the children to read a total of 188,161 pages.
Additionally, one classroom in Kindergarten to grade three and another in fourth to sixth grade with the most pages read won pizza parties, and this year the winning classes were Kaitlin Boyer’s (22,456 pages) and Elizabeth DeAngelo’s (25,191 pages).
The assembly began with custodian Scott Schiel leading the audience in a round of “Happy Birthday” for Stoudt who shares his special day, March 2, with Dr. Seuss. Next, the students continued by singing a Read Across America song that they had learned in music class, while fourth grade teacher Angela Renninger sang along and accompanied on the guitar.
After the songs, Stoudt planned an unusual surprise for reading specialist Patricia Thompson, who is retiring at the end of this year after teaching for nearly three decades. With the help of CES parents Christy and Ryan Schwenk, who are managers at Flying Pony Alpacas, “Fahrenheit” the alpaca was brought in for Thompson to smooch, much to the delight of the students who burst out laughing, clapping, and shouting when the animal entered the room.
Afterwards, it was time for the students to get their reading reward, which involved all of the 400 children being given a chance to squirt, spray and slop ketchup, mustard, chili, relish, onions, and sauerkraut on top of fully frankfurter-fashioned Stoudt as he reclined in a baby pool covered in plastic.
The assembly concluded with a poem about reading, written and recited by fourth grade students Dana Eslava, Danielle Eslava, Cale Richards, Emily Smith, and Natalie Zaleski followed by a final round of the Read Across America song sung by the entire student population.
“It was well worth it, and we’re motivated to read,” Stoudt told the audience. “Next year, I’m already telling you, I’m upping the ante.”