Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A winning opening day for Reading Week at Woodridge School

April 7, 2010
Cranston Herald
All text and photographs by Jen Cowart

In baseball news, the Red Sox beat the Yankees on Opening Day this past Sunday. But both teams were winners in Cranston when two of their biggest fans read aloud to the students at Woodridge Elementary School – a kickoff to Reading Week.

It’s a tradition that dates back many years. Superintendent Peter Nero and Hugh B. Bain Principal, Tom Barbieri arrived at Woodridge carrying their read-alouds and sporting their team jerseys, New York Yankees for Nero and Boston Red Sox for Barbieri.

Because it was also Sports Day on the Reading Week Spirit Week schedule, the students and many of the teachers in each classroom were dressed in their favorite sports team’s colors and clothing as well.

The school’s reading specialist, Karen Marocco along with the help of School Committee Member, Andrea Ianazzi, put the complex schedule of guest readers together.

“Andrea was very instrumental in helping us get our guests this year,” said Marocco, who had the additional complication of three no-school days last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with the floods in Cranston and then the Good Friday holiday leading up to the big week.

“I worked on this schedule at school all day on those flood days last week until the night custodian had to kick me out,” Marocco laughed.

On their way to read, the Nero and Barbieri bantered back and forth about the curse of the bambino, the past and future World Series games, and why their favorite team was the best.

As Barbieri read “The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino,” by Dan Shaunessy to the sixth-graders, Nero was next door reading “Baseball Saved Us,” by Ken Mochizuki and “The Summer my Father was Ten,” by Pat Brisson, to the fifth-graders.

With all kidding aside, however, each gave the students some insight about the value of reading and the lessons it can teach that go beyond the words on the page.

“There are two kinds of reading,” Barbieri told the sixth-graders, many of whom will be attending Bain next fall. “There’s reading for fun and reading to learn. At Bain Middle School, we’re always constantly reading. You never know when a teacher is going to say ‘Drop everything and read,’” he said.

Nero told the fifth-graders about Ted Williams, a Boston Red Sox player, who Nero has a great deal of respect for, despite the fact that he’s a Yankees fan.

“Ted Williams was a great hitter. God had given him a talent, and yet he never took it for granted. He studied baseball and hitting and he wrote a book about it called ‘The Art of Hitting.’ I tell kids all the time, if Ted Williams could study something that he was already so good at, there are no excuses why they can’t study too,” Nero said.

While Nero and Barbieri were reading to the older students, the rest of the school was lucky to have guest readers as well.

Sporting an American sports shirt, Secretary of State, A. Ralph Mollis read aloud to the third graders and took a significant amount of time afterwards to answer questions from the students and to tell them facts about the Rhode Island State House. He left a bookmark for students and made them promise to use them.

“Reading is great,” he told them before he left. “It’s how you practice being smart, just like you practice for sports or other extra-curricular activities. Promise me that you’ll do lots of reading,” Mollis said.

Ianazzi is the School Committee Representative for Woodridge Elementary School, and she followed Mollis. With her choice of team jersey showing her loyalty to the Boston Red Sox, she read “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” by Dr. Suess. After reading the story aloud, she asked the students if they knew what the message was in the story.

“I think it is to face your fears and achieve your goals,” answered one insightful student. Ianazzi agreed. “Although there may be challenges ahead of you, you can make it through,” she said.

Ianazzi said that she tends to read that story to classes every year, because, “It’s a great book.” She also read in kindergarten this year, choosing to read “The Little Engine that Could,” because “It’s what my kindergarten teacher read to me,” she said.

Marocco’s schedule of readers for the rest of the week include school, community, city and state leaders such as Dr. Laura Albanese from the Cranston Schools central office staff, and Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

Each guest reader received a hand-made thank you card from the students, as well as a token of appreciation. Snacks were provided in the foyer, where a school slideshow created by Marocco and art teacher Jean Carmody was on dislplay.

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