Learning to value books Display seeks to show reading is one of life's treasures

November 19, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

At Mount Airy Elementary School, students are learning that books can be treasures.

The idea is the focus of the school's "Childhood Treasures" program to mark National Children's Book Week from Nov. 15 to 21.

"I thought a way to let the kids know reading and books can be meaningful in their lives would be to look at adults and see what were childhood treasures for them," said Holly Vespignani, the school's media specialist.

To get her message across, Mrs. Vespignani asked teachers and school staff what their favorite childhood books were. Then she set up a display with their answers and photos in the school lobby.

Carolyn Etzler, a fifth-grade teacher, chose "Charlotte's Web," by E.B. White, as her favorite childhood book.

"As a child I felt like Wilbur, kind of a misfit, but I had great friends who liked me for what I was," she wrote.

First-grade teacher Vicki Krivos selected "The Velveteen Rabbit" as her childhood treasure because it "explains the nature of real love."

"I'm noticing children standing around all day long reading this [the display], so it's making an impression," said Phyllis Sonnenleiter, a reading specialist at the school, whose favorite childhood book was "Man O'War" by Marguerite Henry.

Eight-year-old Amber McConnell, a third-grader at Mount Airy, stopped by the display to tell Mrs. Vespignani and Mrs. Sonnenleiter about the latest book she was reading, "Caddie Woodelawn."

"It's about Caddie -- she'd rather hunt than sew, rather plow than cook," said Amber. "She's sort of a tomboy, just like me."

In addition to creating the display for Children's Book Week, Mrs. Vespignani had each class at the school write to an adult to ask what his or her favorite childhood book was.

Children wrote to the famous -- Chelsea Clinton, Bo Jackson, Mark Rypien -- and the not-so-famous, such as Don Hicks, a former teacher at Mount Airy Elementary.

Several classes also wrote to authors of children's books.

Responses already have started to trickle in.

Duke University's basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, wrote to say his favorite childhood book was "Moby Dick." He also sent a poster of Duke's basketball team, posed in a library.

"What a motivator to kids who think that athletes are dumb and not literate," Mrs. Sonnenleiter said.

The "Childhood Treasures" project ties in with the school's yearlong reading incentive program, "Reading Is a Treasure." In this program, each class works toward a goal of reading a certain number of books outside of school. When they reach the goal, the children are treated to a party.

Mount Airy's assistant principal, Ruth Riddle, said programs designed to encourage children to read are important, considering the distractions of video games and television.

"I think there's a lot of competition for reading, but I also think the selection of children's books has never been better, so that helps," Mrs. Riddle said.

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