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Story time program builds literacy,love for reading

Parents,teachers read aloud at Greenhills Elementary
By: Megan Wood The Press Tribune
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Have you ever seen a mouse ride a motorcycle? Students at Greenhills Elementary School in Granite Bay saw just that Monday morning with a special visit by “Ralph” and his motorcycle during their morning assembly. The surprise appearance was in honor of the school reading the final chapter of Beverly Cleary’s “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” for the school’s newest literacy program Greenhills Reads. Kicking off its first year, Greenhills Reads encourages the students, teachers and parents to read the same book to promote literacy, vocabulary and the importance of reading aloud. “Most parents stop reading to their children once they are old enough to read on their own,” said Greenhills Principal Peter Towne. “What they don’t realize is that reading aloud to children builds their vocabulary and promotes a love of reading.” Former Eureka School District reading teacher Carolsue Acres said she has been following the studies of Jim Trelease, author of “The Read Aloud Handbook,” to bring the importance of reading to children to schools throughout the district. “When kids are read to, they can think at a higher level than when they read. They can stop and listen to the story and the words,” Acres said. “That builds their vocabulary and lets them imagine the story unfolding, which associates reading with pleasure.” Acres presented Towne with the idea to have the students’ parents read one chapter a night to their children from the same book to promote reading aloud to children. Towne selected the Cleary’s “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” as the first book to launch the program as he said it was one of his favorite books as a child. “For me it was a gateway book to literature. It opened the door to reading and the need to devour books,” Towne said. “I hope to pass that along to the kids.” Towne said Greenhills purchased 500 copies of “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” so each child could have their own copy to keep and add to their personal libraries and read at home. “We had a lot of support with this program,” Towne said. “Kicking it off, we felt it was special that each child have their own copy with their name in it.” Towne said Greenhills has plans to continue the reading program throughout the year and is currently in the selection process to choose a book to begin reading in January. “Moving forward we’re brainstorming other ways to do the program at a lower cost,” Towne said. The kindergarten through third-grade school gathered at their weekly Monday morning assemblies to discuss the book, characters and hypothesize upcoming events. “It became a great unifying conversation piece that we could discuss,” Towne said. “All I had to do was mention a small part of the chapter we had read and their eyes would light up and we could have a conversation and all be on the same page.” But Towne said he never anticipated the program to spark conversations outside the classroom walls. “I was pleasantly surprised to hear that parents were discussing the book on the sidelines of soccer games,” Towne said. “I think it’s great that families can come together over something like reading.” On Monday morning, hundreds of eager kindergartners, first-, second- and third-graders filtered into Greenhills’ multi-purpose room to hear the final chapter of “The Mouse and the Motorcycle.” “Celebrity” guest readers including Greenhills third-grade teacher Eric Lee, Eureka School District Director of Curriculum Heidi Dettwiller, Greenhills librarian Anne Casagrande and former Greenhills Principal Clara Taylor took turns reading pages from the final chapter. “I liked having the book read to me,” said second-grader Bradley Blakemore, who said his parents read to him most nights. “It’s less work for me and I get to imagine the story.” After the final chapter was read aloud, the students got a major surprise as the curtains on the stage were drawn to reveal Christian Lynch who brought in his motorcycle to portray Ralph. “Even though I know that wasn’t the real Ralph it was fun that he came to help us finish the book,” said third-grader Kylee Nelson. “I’m excited for the next book to read with my school.”