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Draper Journal

Willow Springs students put literacy twist on Halloween parade

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● By Julie Slama

Willow Springs Elementary fifth-graders wear costumes, many representing their favorite literary characters, on Halloween. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

If you were to ask Willow Springs kindergartner Allie Olson who her favorite character is in “Rise of the Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel,” all she had to do on Halloween was twirl.

Allie was dressed as Uma, Ursula’s daughter who teams up with other villains’ children to try to get ahold of King Triton’s powerful trident.

“It’s a fun book,” Allie said about the book she’s reading with her mother. “I like Uma. I like her hair.”

Allie, like other Willow Springs students, was encouraged to wear a costume that represented their favorite literary characters for the annual school Halloween parade, said Principal Marianne Yule.

“We’re hoping students will read the book and get ideas for their costume or dress up as a character then want to read the book,” she said. “Maybe they’ll walk through the parade and see someone else dressed up and learn why they like a certain character and later read the book.”

Yule, who was dressed as the princess from “The Frog Prince,” said she knows the literacy parade has been in place for at least five years, but it could have been since the school was first established.

“We’re encouraging students to read any time they can. Studies show that students only read an average of 12 minutes in school per day. So we’re encouraging our students to read, read, read every day. In classes, they read everything together — instructions, math problems, everything. We’re trying to get in every minute possible. Technology is great, but we’re losing out on opportunities to read so we’re encouraging them to read more,” she said.

In class, students are given 15 to 30 minutes of individual reading time where they can select a book from their level in the classroom library. Students also can build fluency and comprehension through Lexia and Reading Plus computerized literacy programs.

On the parade day, Yule said she asks students to tell her about the book the students represent or what they like about the character. Some teachers also may ask students to write about their book or character in a journal entry.

Fifth-grade teacher Mark Besendorfer said teachers also encourage students to read.

“Most teachers read a good book by an author who has written several or the first in a series out loud to their students so they will develop an interest and want to read more,” he said.

Many students in his class wore costumes representing characters they have read from their favorite books, Besendorfer said.

Among those in his class was Dorothy from the “The Wizard of Oz,” portrayed by Jordyn Cromar.

“I’ve watched the movie, but I haven’t read the book,” she said, adding that she likes to wear sparkly things for Halloween. “My favorite book is ‘Yellow Star.’”

Classmate Aleah Marinez was dressed as Wonder Woman.

“I’ve been told I look like her,” she said. “My dad has read a lot of books about her and said he’d give me some to read. “

Fifth-grader Karly Ballard dressed as one of her favorite childhood characters, the Cookie Monster.

“I really liked the Cookie Monster and cookies,” she said. “Sesame Street books remind me of reading when I was little.”

Karly still reads every night with her brother. He likes action-packed books and one of her favorites is “Wonder.”

She also enjoys the school’s annual read-a-thon on Dr. Seuss Day where they read for “about three hours” in their classroom.

Yule, who would love to curl up and read “Les Miserables” or any of Charles Dickens’ novels, said this year the read-a-thon will be March 6, kicking off with Books and Breakfast where students can start the day by reading with parents or grandparents. The event also will include a reading chart, encouraging students to read 30 minutes daily. 

She also has been known to read her favorite children’s book, “Little Bear” by Else Holmelund Minarik, to classes.

“We just want students to enjoy reading for just the pleasure of it,” she said.