In Montville, It's Lions and Tigers and Giraffes - and Read Across America, Oh, My! (With Video)

High School Students Visit the Elementary Schools, Read to the Kids and Interact with Them, Too

Every year, a few things happen on March 2. One is that book-lovers everywhere celebrate Dr. Seuss. Another is that the National Education Association celebrates reading with Read Across America.

Another thing that happens on March 2, in Montville, at least, is that elementary school kids take state tests.

And so, every year, Montville celebrates Read Across America on another day.

This year, that day was Thursday.

A gaggle of students from Montville High School volunteered to participate, and early on Thursday, they left the high school and traveled to , and the

They read, they involved the kids in book-related activities, they engaged the youngsters and they showed them just how friendly and outgoing high school students can be.

And the elementary school kids ate it up.

In Healther Holmes’s second-grade class at the Murphy school, Andy Mertz and Trevor Hillyer, both 17, share the reading of “The Polar Express.” They sit in front of the class, read, and ask questions of the kids.

“Did you ever lose something that was special to you?” Hillyer asks. Hands shoot up.

This one lost a dog. That one lost a toy. That one lost a pearl necklace.

The kids clamor to answer, to participate, to tell the big kids about themselves.

And the big kids share, too.

Hillyer says he was a little nervous before the event began, in spite of having a fair amount of experience in public speaking. Mertz admitted to a little anxiety, too.

It doesn’t show.

Holmes is a fan of the program. In past years, she says, she’s had high school students who once were her elementary students come back to do the reading.

That’s the case in Susan Jurczik’s room, where Megan Podeszwa, now a senior at the high school, had Jurczik as a teacher.

Podeszwa remembers being in the class when the high school students came and read, and it’s a good memory, one that helped make her want to participate.

Sophomore Megan Rotkowitz, Podeszwa’s partner in Jurczik’s second-grade room, says she was happy to volunteer to read.

And again, the kids respond with excitement and joy.

Podeszwa and Rotkowitz engineer a fascinating activity to accompany the book they read, "Ella's Umbrella." They split the kids into three groups, and direct one to snap their fingers, another to make a “sshh” sound, and a third to slap their thighs.

All together, the three groups make something that sounds like rain.

Jurczik helps them refine it, adding a crescendo and a thunder storm, which makes the kids even happier.

In Michele Lathrop’s kindergarten class, the book is “Giraffes Can’t Dance.” There are three readers here, Mallory Tassone, Courtney Rail and Gabe Diaz. All are freshmen.

They’ve cooked up a multipart activity to go with their book, and so the kids make masks and maracas and when all that is done, and Lathrop has used the hot glue gun on all the kids’ masks, they march around the room, stomping and roaring and acting like all those giraffes who don’t dance.

“I love little kids,” Rail says.

She and Tassone remember being at the Murphy school, and Lathrop remembers them.

“They didn’t remember being this little,” she says, adding that she’s impressed at how well-prepared they are.

For the kids, Read Across America is a treat in many ways. Even in kindergarten, Lathrop says, the children don’t often have the chance to participate in activities like Thursday’s.

“It’s so academic now,” Lathrop says. “Kindergarten isn’t play any more.”


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