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Jeannette literacy event brings children inside the story

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 9:31 p.m.
Children listen as a teacher reads 'What was I scared of?' by Dr. Seuss.
Children gather in the enchanted forest to hear stories from the storybook characters in person.

Each year, the doors of Jeannette McKee Elementary's library are opened for the fall literacy event and the endless creativity that lurks in the minds of children comes to life.

This adventure in haunted literacy is held near Halloween each year and transforms the library from an ordinary room filled with books to an enchanted forest where characters from those books act out their stories. This year's event brought nearly 300 people to the library — last year the total was 185.

Sam Dini, reading specialist, said the event gained popularity simply by word of mouth.

“It's steadily grown,” Dini said. “This year was the biggest jump.”

They hoped for 200 this year and were surprised by the number who signed up in advance. To better handle the large crowd, the organizers this year expanded on the original idea. Students and their families had a chance to make crafts and to participate in games, in addition to touring the library and hearing a live reading of “What was I scared of?” by Dr. Seuss.

There was a big jump in the number of teachers who volunteered their time to participate in the event as well. Teachers volunteered as tour guides, led the craft projects, organized the games, read to the children and helped to erect the enchanted forest. Teachers dressed in costume, which gave the children a chance to see their teachers in a different light, said Brittany Gasparro, Title 1 assistant.

After the event, all children were able to pick out a book to take home with them. There were 380 books for all age groups featuring fall themes of Halloween and fairy tales.

This literacy event is meant to act as a springboard to increase all of the students' interest in reading. Title 1 funding requires the district to hold several events with parents throughout the year as a way of encouraging parents to read with their children outside of school. Chandra Orbin, a Title 1 program teacher, said she'd like to see the other events held through the year get as much attention as the fall literacy event.

For example, there is a program for parents of kindergartners to teach parents how to help their children learn to read. The program meets four times a year, children receive a book to take home at each session and parents who attend each of the four programs receive a gift card. Orbin said just 20 percent of parents attend those events while 50 percent of the entire elementary student body attended the fall literacy event.

“We're trying to increase parents and kids reading together,” said Orbin.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 724-838-5154.