“Find a spot, sit quietly,” Tanya Anderson advised a student. “Someone will come around and ask if you want popcorn.”
Kids were strewn around the library at East Ridge Middle School — sitting on chairs, lying on the floor with blankets and pillows, gathered in small groups under tents made by draping sheets over chairs and between bookshelves.
“We’re celebrating reading, so classes and students have been coming into the Library Learning Commons all day,” Anderson said.
It was Read Across America Day, Thursday, March 2 — the birthday of Ted Geisel, Dr. Seuss — and at the East Ridge library, kids were celebrating it in a simple, relaxing way: by reading books just to enjoy them. No questions. No tests. No reports. Just reading. There was popcorn, shared in brown paper bags by parent volunteers who came in for the all-day reading session, which went from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
‘Virtual book talks’
At Scotts Ridge Middle School, although the day was later cut short by a power outage, students gathered around computers in groups of five or six to have “virtual book talks” via the Internet discussing “books, authors, genres, themes” with students at Danbury’s Broadview Middle School, said Janine Johnson, library/media specialist at Scotts Ridge.
“I liked that we could talk to kids from other towns and see how different people perceive books differently,” said Sean Hamilton, a Scotts Ridge seventh grader. “I also got some good book ideas from the Danbury kids.”
Scotts Ridge seventh grader Sabrina Porter shared preferences with a Broadview student who enjoys realistic fiction, drama and adventure tales.
“I like books that are different so it’s not the same story over again,” Sabrina said. “If the author is good, it will make you want to read until the end.”
Johnson, the Scotts Ridge librarian, was pleased with the day.
“Our goal was to celebrate how reading connects us all, and to open some conversations with students outside our district,” she said. “You could certainly hear the connections taking place. The kids really enjoyed it, and there were some really great discussions, including one interesting one about the definition of a classic!”
The elementary schools observed the day in different ways.
At Ridgebury Elementary School, kids shared songs, poems and skits based on the work of their favorite authors, performing in school during the day and for family and friends in the evening.
Activities at Barlow Mountain Elementary School ranged from reading in pajamas to visits by guest readers.
Students and staff dressed as their favorite book characters at Veterans Park School. And at the school’s morning meeting they did a shared reading of Dr. Suess’s book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
“The best part was the kickoff for our One Book, One Read program this month,” said Veterans Park librarian Liza Shaban. The book is Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. During the day, the PTA handed out gifts to the classroom. The teachers will read the book and there will be copies to be shared at home.
At the East Ridge Middle School library kids weren’t on the computers.
“It’s celebrating reading — with physical books,” said Anderson, the librarian.
Parents were going around, offering bags of popcorn to kids in the library, reading.
“We have a lot of parent volunteers coming in throughout the day to help out,” Anderson said.
It was quiet. The kids weren’t working in groups, collaborating on projects, as is typical in the Library Learning Commons.
“There’s usually a quiet buzz,” Anderson said. “But today, we’re just focusing on reading.”
Anderson noted that townspeople can see more reading celebrations by following the Instagram account ERMSLLC.
“The school library has really transformed over the last 10 years. However, regardless of how it continues to evolve, it must always be a place where kids can come to read and enjoy books,” Anderson said. “The Read Across America event was a way to partner with the teachers in the school and promote how fun reading can be.
“Making reading fun,” she said, “that’s how you engage the kids.”