HUDSON — Children in the Hudson Intermediate School were facing a daunting prospect: a whole week without teacher’s dirty looks. How to prepare them for this deprivation?
The school has nothing if not a collective, wildly creative imagination, and to ease their children into nine days of domestic isolation, the powers-that-be devised the M.C. Smith Read-A-Thon.
The event was organized by literacy teacher Lisa Dolan and fifth-grade teacher Lynn Clark, organizing genii of the first order: Not only did the Read-A-Thon get kids off on the right foot for vacation, it also raised $6,000 for the book festival.
“We always have a Read-A-Thon the last day before vacation,” said Principal Mark Brenneman. “It’s the 100th day of the school year.” After an inspiring assembly, the kids read books all day long.
Focusing on literacy the day before the break, Brenneman believes, “increases the chances they’ll read over the coming week.”
Of course, there are kids who stare out the window or twiddle their thumbs? Not a chance, according to Brenneman.
“The kids love it,” he said. “If you put high-interest texts in front of kids, they’re going to read it and enjoy it. I incessantly read sports books.” Now the kids read “Stella Bats” books, or “Happily Ever After” books, he said.
“The kids love them. The authors come here, and they treat them like rock stars. It’s a testament to the hard work of our staff to get the kids to raise their literacy,” Brenneman said.
The Read-A-Thon also has a more concrete, quickly achievable goal.
“It’s our fundraiser for the book festival,” he said. “The kids have pledge sheets, and people pledge for them to read all day. The money raised supports the book festival.”
The Hudson Children’s Book Festival, created and developed by Dolan and other HCSD staff, is the largest such festival in New York state. It gets no tax support, so it depends on donations and fundraising.
So where did all the books the kids read Friday come from?
One student, Malachi, brought in the biggest book in his class, a book of Grimm’s fairy tales, and he said he’d be reading that all day. His favorite is “Hansel and Gretel.”
But for those who didn’t bring in a book or two, “we have the books,” Brenneman said. There are lots in the classrooms, and Dolan’s classroom has books as far as the eye can see.
“Fifty kids a day come down to Lisa’s room (for books),” he said. “We’re constantly getting new books, new authors.”
The Read-A-Thon began with the kickoff assembly in the auditorium.
After a welcome by Brenneman, fifth-grade teacher Edgar Acevedo sang “America the Beautiful” accompanied by Americorps’ Alec Butterfield on vocal percussion.
Next, music teacher Gerard Cordato played a jazzy number on the keyboard, followed by the jazz band itself — trombones, trumpets, saxes, clarinets, flutes, snare and bass drums and a djembe.
The band was followed by Americorps’ Laura Engelman, who executed faster-than-the-eye-can-see jump-roping feats; Brenneman was heard to confide in some front-row students that he could have done as well, had he not worn the wrong shoes.
The athletic wonders continued as physical education teacher Karrie Cox’ gymnastics club did astounding feats, walking on their hands, flips, splits, cartwheels, backflips and on beyond the poor vocabulary of the unitiated.
Cox stayed on for the next event, a hip-hop dance with fellow teachers Tani Quinion, Stephanie Curry and Lena Alessi. Each wore one of the letters of the word “READ” on her T-shirt. The number also included inventive solos by students pulled in from the audience.
The finale was a wide-ranging beat-box number by Butterfield that ended with the words, “I want you all to read many books / This is going to be a wonderful Friday / Read books all day.”