Educators invite adults to share love of books

Guests: Pupils hear from local celebrities at Padonia International Elementary School.

January 21, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Educators at Padonia International Elementary School in northern Baltimore County are using a bit of star power to encourage pupils to read - and to read for life.

The school's Guest Reader program, which began about two years ago, has brought big names in local politics, education and the media to the campus to read and discuss books.

On Thursday, Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston visited the school to read "Aunt Flossie's Hats (And Crab Cakes Later)." The book, written by local author Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, is the story of two girls who learn about Baltimore from tales their aunt tells them about her favorite hats. A hat in Aunt Flossie's collection smells of smoke. It holds memories for the woman of the 1904 fire that destroyed much of the city.

"I have some old football shoes and they have a story to tell, too," said Hairston, who played football at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. The third-graders sitting at his feet giggled.

So far, pupils have met Baltimore County Board of Education members John A. Hayden and Phyllis E. Ettinger. They received an autographed photograph from WJZ-TV news anchor Don Scott. U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wished them good luck in school. Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan thanked them for letting him share his favorite book, Dr. Seuss' "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

"The purpose of the program is to introduce children to people they respect and show those people reading," said Padonia Assistant Principal Karen K. Cashen, who rounded up the first list of guest readers two years ago when she was a reading specialist.

Pupils in each grade take part in the reading program and get a bit of preparation before they meet their guest reader. Teachers explain to them the kind of work the guest does and what kind of questions they might ask.

So far, every guest has talked about the importance of reading - without coaching from Cashen or teachers. "You can tell that reading is a strong priority for these people," she said.

Hairston, like most of the program's guest readers, spent about an hour with the pupils, asking them questions about the book and about their own memories.

"How many of you have a special memory?" asked Hairston.

Eager hands went up.

"I remember when I first got my little dog," said Alyssa Morris, 9.

During Hairston's visit, pupils asked him what it was like to be head of the school system. He told them a bit about his experiences as a teacher and principal.

"The pupils really do feel honored when these important people come to read to them," said Barhight, the school's reading specialist. "They all write thank-you notes. Some of them are precious."

Next week, state Del. Robert A. Zirkin, an Owings Mills Democrat, will visit the school, as will County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a North County-Owings Mills Republican, and County Public Library director James Fish.

Fish's book of choice: Dr. Seuss' "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish." Of course.

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