A pat on the back from Cat in Hat

Winners: Pupils at Bentalou Elementary win books to take home for their efforts in a contest for Read Across America day.

March 05, 2000|By Nora Koch | Nora Koch,SUN STAFF

The Cat in the Hat cheered Thursday morning as each of the 27 third-graders at Bentalou Elementary School -- on command -- tore through green paper on individually wrapped gifts to find three books that each could take home to their own library.

By logging more than 500 books read in little more than a month, pupils at the West Baltimore school won $1,000 for books from Saturn Corp., in a contest intended to help celebrate the nationwide "Read Across America" day festivities.

Held each year on March 2, Dr. Seuss' birthday, Read Across America day is sponsored by the National Education Association to encourage adults to read to children. The group expected more than 20 million children and adults to take part in reading-related events across the country.

"There aren't as many opportunities for children to sit down with an adult in a quiet place and read. Through programs such as this, we can draw attention to this need," said Patricia Foerster, vice president of the Maryland State Teachers Association, which had a volunteer at Thursday's event at Bentalou dressed as Dr. Seuss' famous cat. "It does a lot for the kids to recognize that reading is something we're celebrating."

Among activities across the state:

Third-graders from Tyler Heights Elementary in Annapolis feasted on green eggs and ham at Copeland's restaurant in Annapolis, as U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes read from Seuss classics.

Third-graders at Lansdowne Elementary School in Baltimore County wrote paragraphs about book characters and dressed as those characters.

At Jacobsville Elementary School in Anne Arundel County about 40 guest readers, including teachers, Naval Academy midshipmen and Rotary Club members, took part in family reading night.

At Warren Elementary School, in Cockeysville in Baltimore County, pupils celebrated the end of a monthlong "Read-a-thon" in which they attempted to read for 2,600 hours -- matching the number of miles between Cockeysville and the Pacific Ocean.

Thursday morning's celebration at Bentalou included Saturn representatives, parents and grandparents and city school executives.

Pupils in teacher Cynthia Williams' class were honored for logging the most books read out of about 50 elementary school classes throughout the city that participated in the contest, which ran from Jan. 14 to Feb. 23.

Third-grader Dante Franklin, dressed in a shirt and tie with navy dress pants, greeted visitors at door of the school library and made sure everyone signed the library's guest book.

The 9-year-old said he had read about 10 books in his class's successful contest effort. His favorite books are about his hero, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., because "he made blacks and whites friends."

"This is a sampling of the success the children can have," said Mary Ann Winterling, Bentalou's principal and a 34-year veteran of the city's elementary schools.

Each pupil in the class received a copy of Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go," a hardback dictionary, and a book of stories based on African-American culture, all compliments of Saturn. The school library received a world atlas and a dictionary.

Saturn officials said this was the second year the company had awarded a $1,000 reading prize to a city elementary school class. Last year, a class at Thomas G. Hayes Elementary School won.

"Children need to understand how important reading is," said Eric Sherman, a representative from the partnership between the Saturn car company and its union workers, who traveled from California for Thursday's event. "There's nothing more important than having kids grow up able to read."

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