Follow the Yellow Brick Road to reading.
This was the concept for Arredondo Elementary School’s “The Wizard of Oz”-themed Reading Day on Friday.
The campus was transformed into a reading-centered “land of Oz,” where a velvet green curtain greeted incomers. On the other side of the curtain, a massive gray and black handcrafted tornado stretched to the ceiling.
A “yellow brick road” was laid out through the hallways where giant art pieces shaped after iconic books like Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” Laura Numeroff’s “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” and David Shannon’s “No, David!” were scattered.
Arredondo Principal Amber Barbarow wore a blue-and-white-checkered dress and ruby slippers, posing as main character, Dorothy. Assistant principal Michelle Miles dressed up as the cowardly lion.
Special Ed teacher Victoria Stuckman dressed up as the “Wicked Witch of the West,” while fifth-grade teachers rocked red and blue shirts and caps with tutus as the “flying monkeys.”
Students were invited to wear their pajamas to read in or dress as their favorite book character.
“Each year, we try to celebrate on our early release days all the different content areas,” explained Barbarow. “This is our second annual Reading Day. We decided to go with the theme ‘The Wizard of Oz.’
“It’s our ‘Yellow Brick Road to Reading.’ We started making those gigantic books with the theme of the book fair this week. We want to make sure the kids go off to spring break with that love of reading, wanting to read and just that excitement of reading. Hopefully that will inspire them to read while they’re gone.”
Lamar CISD Superintendent Dr. Thomas Randle visited the campus and read Laura Numeroff’s “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Others participating included Lamar CISD board members Kathryn Kaminski and Kay Danziger and Executive Director of Elementary Education Linda Lane.
“They brought some books, we gave them some books as well and they read to several different grade levels,” said Barbarow. “That was nice. It’s fabulous when they get involved in our schools, come give up their time to get out and read to some kids.”
Barbarow also noted “a ton of parents were here and they were so excited to see it. I think the parents were more surprised to see what was going on than the kids were. Just coming through the big curtains, they were like, ‘Ohh, well! There’s a lot going on!’
“It’s great. We love to get the community involved and our parents involved in reading to their kids as much as they can.”
In contrast to the fantasy land of Oz, Barbarow described last year’s Reading Day as more focused on “the book character costumes and wearing the Reading Day shirts versus having a theme.
This year, “it spiraled into “The Wizard of Oz” and the yellow brick road. We found the curtains and we did the tornado, it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. We have the house with the ruby slippers,” she said of the Do-It-Yourself crafted project with a laugh.
“It just kept going. I have an awesome staff who are willing to jump in there and do whatever it takes to get the kids excited about learning. I give them all the credit in the world.”
Fifth-grader Sydney Tran shared her love for Reading Day. “It was really awesome,” she said. “I liked how the teachers were all dressed up and we got to wear our pajamas!”
As for Sydney’s favorite book to read on Reading Day? “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White.
“It’s a really interesting book and you can make a lot of connections with it. Like when Wilbur the pig went to a fair, I could relate to that because I went to the [Fort Bend County] fair,” she explained.
When asked if she could relate to the main character, 8-year-old Fern, who takes care of Wilbur, she said her sister, 16-year-old George Ranch High School student Aaliyah Ly, has similarities.
“My sister is like her because she’s always taking care of me,” she said.
And for the principal’s favorite books?
“When it comes to reading for entertainment, I’m more of a John Grisham fan,” answered Barbarow. “It takes me completely away from my elements here and into more of the mystery side of things. I really like his books.
“For children’s books, Dr. Seuss is my favorite. I’m a huge Dr. Seuss fan. ‘Green Eggs and Ham,’ ‘The Cat in the Hat,’ I love all of those.”