Readathon is jumping Administrator spices book program by leaving behind a frog or a toad

January 24, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

If a school wants Gary Dunkelberger to come to its readathon, they have to put up with frogs, too.

"I tell them I'm coming and I'm bringing frogs," said the director of curriculum and staff development for Carroll County schools. He brings the live amphibians to spice up "Frogs and Toads," a book recommended six years ago by his son.

Long after the tale is done, the frogs remain as living, leaping gifts to the class.

"I am almost never invited back to the same classroom," Mr. Dunkelberger said a little ruefully.

This year, Mary Jo Cornes' second grade at Eldersburg Elementary won the froggy prize.

"I only found out minutes ago, but they will fit right into our life cycles science unit," said a nonplussed Ms. Cornes.

Mr. Dunkelberger was well into his story Friday in Ms. Cornes' class when he pulled a small frog out of a cooler.

"Eeeuuuwww. My mom wouldn't want to touch them," said Matthew Leberman.

"I want to see them eat bugs," said Lee Hufnagel.

Mr. Dunkelberger pointed out a few differences in the species.

"A toad is darker and has warty skin," he said.

"I have a wart," said Tommy Davis. "See?"

Mr. Dunkelberger was among more than 100 guests who read volumes to students of all ages at Eldersburg's readathon, the largest in the county, said organizer Mary Katsafanas, a first-grade teacher.

"I love this program," said Ann M. Ballard, a school board member who has participated in several county readathons recently to celebrate Maryland Reading Month.

Ms. Ballard's enthusiasm was not damped, but she did change her story at Eldersburg. The day before, she had taken a book of sports trivia to Mount Airy Elementary School.

"They made me read every sports fact," she said. "I brought a short story for today."

About two months ago, Ms. Katsafanas mailed invitations to local -- and national -- leaders.

"We issue equal opportunity invitations to everybody," said Ms. Katsafanas, who asked the Clintons and Bushes to come to the readathon. The former and present first couples sent regrets.

One first-grader couldn't understand what President Bush has to do now that he is out of office, she said.

"I read the replies to the children as we get them, and they love it," said Ms. Katsafanas, who keeps a scrapbook of letters from invited guests.

"Last year, we received a personal letter from Barbara Bush and a picture of Millie," she said.

Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. joined the party. Ten fifth-grade students listened as the mayor read an excerpt from Garrison Keilor's "Lake Woebegon Days."

"I hope you will be as excited about reading as I am," said Mr. Helt to the children. "Turn off the television and read."

Ms. Katsafanas said guests read entire stories to the younger children. In the older grades, some guests read parts of books and encouraged the students to finish the stories on their own.

Larry Thompson, principal of Freedom Elementary School, read Roy Gerrard's "Rosie and the Rustlers" and told the children to watch for the author's new book.

Teachers said the readathon program has only one drawback.

"The kids really love it," said Margo Burns, fifth-grade teacher. "Only they don't want us to read to them anymore. Now, they want someone famous."

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