EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 8, 2013

Kittredge School students bolster reading skills

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Some observers might have thought they were celebrating Halloween a few months early — or late — at Kittredge School yesterday morning.

There were many students and teachers decked out in “The Cat in the Hat” headgear. Eileen Donovan, a kindergarten teacher, was dressed up like a dinosaur.

Music teacher Ryan Landry was spiffily attired as Mr. Popper, as in “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.”

Then, as the children, seated in the auditorium, were getting ready for the morning’s activities, in strode “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”

No, this wasn’t about ghosts and goblins. It was Kittredge School’s observance of “Read Across America Day.” Kittredge and other schools throughout the region and the country used this occasion to inspire young people to become avid readers.

At Kittredge, teachers and students were encouraged to come to school dressed as their favorite literary characters.

As “Clifford the Big Red Dog” — in real life, he’s Principal Richard Cushing — said, they were celebrating “our own March madness.” Donovan, for example, wore her outfit in honor of “How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night.”

Various figures in the community, including Town Manager Andrew Maylor, Town Clerk Joyce Bradshaw, School Committee member Andrew McDevitt, fire Chief Andrew Melnikas, facilities manager Stephen Foster, Superintendent Kevin Hutchinson, Assistant Superintendent Gregg Gilligan and state Rep. Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen, visited the school and read to students.

Ordinarily immersed in the numbers, details and competing interests of running town government, Maylor said he was glad to shift gears for a few moments and spend time with the younger generation. He read “Harald and the Giant Knight” to William Brady’s fifth-graders; then he shared “The Great Kapok Tree” with Kathleen Loughlin’s fourth-graders.

Written by Donald Carrick, “Harald and the Giant Knight” tells the story of a boy and his family who drove away a large group of knights who had decided to use their farm for spring training.

Lynne Cherry’s “The Great Kapok Tree” features a strong environmental theme that seemed to resonate well with the fourth-graders. It’s about a man who starts to chop down a huge kapok tree in the Amazon rain forest, then falls asleep.

During his slumber, the various animals who live in or near the tree, including a boa constrictor, a jaguar, a porcupine, a sloth a tree frog and even a child from an indigenous tribe, urge the chopper to leave the tree alone, warning him that destroying it will result in “many ruined lives.”

The students indicated they understood why the rain forest is necessary, when questioned by Maylor. The the gigantic trees and other plants provide oxygen, they noted.

Many of the young people had questions about what Maylor’s job entails. He summed it up by saying he’s responsible for “making sure things happen correctly,” whether it’s fixing potholes, providing public safety or keeping the town on the right financial track.

Maylor said a career in municipal management is fulfilling, but he warned, “You can’t make everybody happy.”

For a few hours yesterday, everybody at Kittredge School seemed to be quite happy about reading.