Center Street Promotes Literacy

Celebration of Dr. Seuss Turns into Family Affair


Center Street Elementary gives literacy its due



El Segundo, CA – March 8, 2012 – A fire truck, lots of kids, families galore, oh my!  “Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” student plays, no lie!  The influence of Dr. Seuss on his littlest fans was raucously evident in a two-day literacy celebration at Center Street School organized by Ms. Kim Jones, CSS’ Reading Specialist, in conjunction with Mrs. Kim Thoman, who served as the PTA representative organizing the mega-extravaganza.    An exhausted yet exhilarated Jones looked like she was ready to pinch herself.  “When we dreamed this up, putting the Literacy Night on Thursday and then following it with our big Dr. Seuss Read Across America celebration on Friday seemed genius,” she laughed.  “It turned out to be a bit more than I had planned on, but it was worth every effort the PTA and I put into it.”


The close to 200 people milling around the Center Street campus on Thursday evening would undoubtedly agree.  From 6:00 to 6:15 p.m. the crowd was entertained by 5th grade student thespians performing their self-penned Dr. Seuss plays in the Cougar Cafeteria.  That bout of creativity was followed by activities set up to allow children to express their love of literacy with Journal making stations, bookmark designing stations and game making stations.    The ever enterprising 5th graders, when done emoting on stage, took advantage of the crowd working up an appetite with all the excitement and provided pizza, drinks, and cookies for sale in an effort to fund their Yearbooks.


The following day the pace didn’t slow, as the anticipation of celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday began to build.  Ms. Leonard’s 5th grade students kicked things off with the 12th annual presentation of their Dr. Seuss plays. Soon after, the kindergarten and first grade classes were treated to an assembly with parent Jim Fenton dressed as “The Cat in the Hat.”  Of particular note was his young son raptly watching the performance, as it slowly dawned on him the “Cat” looked awfully familiar, and was in fact no less than his very own father!  Thanks to the Cat’s encouragement, the young students bravely sampled Green Eggs and Ham, which they surprisingly said they would try again.


As though the excitement begun 24 hours earlier wasn’t enough, an El Segundo Fire Truck pulled up out front of the school, with several firefighters jumping out to share their favorite Dr. Seuss stories and highlight the importance of reading.


Later that day The Cougar Cafeteria was awash in excitement as students, dressed as their favorite storybook characters, awaited the arrival of two real-live, flesh-and-blood authors:  E.J. Altbacker, author of children’s books series “Shark Wars” along with Derek the Ghost (Derek Kent), author of the “Scary School” series. Both regaled students with their own personal stories of the path that led them to careers as authors.  They also coached students on how to brainstorm ideas for their own personal books, how to develop those ideas into storylines, and how to populate their stories with lively, engaging characters.


Both Kent and Altbacker were quite impressed with the caliber of questions peppering them from their eager audience.  The kids’ enthusiasm for reading was so great to see” noted Kent, while Altbacker shared, “I had a great time and your kids are fantastic.  Really bright and inquisitive.  Your teachers are doing a fantastic job for that school.”  When school was finally out, the celebration of literacy was far from over – both authors held court for students and the parents interested in purchasing a signed author’s edition of their books.


Principal Marisa Janicek could barely contain her pride and excitement at the enthusiasm of the kids, the professionalism of the authors, and the hard work of the Center Street PTA, Kim Jones, and Kim Thoman.  “This was an unqualified, huge success,” Janicek grinned.  “We were thinking along the lines of 100 people max showing up last night, and we almost doubled that.  I am so thrilled that our community understands the vital importance of embedding in our students not just a love of literacy but an awareness of how we are all of us, in our very own unique way, authors and story-tellers ourselves.”  When asked if this was a “first annual” and the community could look forward to the Literacy Night again next year, Jones smiled gamely.  “Of course, why not?”