Jefferson Township recently celebrated Read Across America, a reading initiative created by the National Education Association that began in 1997 to get kids excited about reading.
On Monday, March 9, New Jersey native and children’s author Daryl Cobb was very successful in getting first and second graders excited about reading and the creative process during his highly interactive presentation Music and Storytime at Cozy Lake School The assembly program was funded by the Jefferson Township Board of Education and intertwined with Cozy Lake School’s Pirate Day, one of many events that took place to celebrate Read Across America week.
Many of the students and teachers were dressed as pirates or wore pirate-themed accessories — pirate hats, skull kerchiefs, vests, eye patches, black and white striped clothing, and some even carried colorful parrots including Reading Specialist Beth Hoffman!
Cobb’s literacy through a creative arts program utilized all his skills as an author of 17 children’s books, musician, singer/songwriter, and actor. His energy brought several of his children’s books to life for the students through his words, actions, instruments, PowerPoint presentations, and songs. He constantly interacted with the children, moving throughout the all-purpose room engaging their interest and encouraging their participation, often kneeling down on the floor to be at their level (as they were sitting on the floor). Singing and playing his guitar from the moment they started to file into the room, the students were immediately involved right to the end of the approximately one hour show.
Using one of his books Do Pirates Go To School?, Cobb had a personalized copy printed for Cozy Lake School that integrated the names of the school’s staff with Principal Karl Mundi as Captain K. Mundi throughout the original story. The newly titled version was aptly entitled Do Pirates Go To Cozy Lake Elementary School? Cobb explained to the children that writers use words and take their readers on a journey learning new words and new things, and going to wonderful places sometimes making them happy, sometimes making them sad. Cobb explained that he wrote similarly to the Dr. Seuss books where the words always rhymed, but he put his words into music.
Strumming his guitar, Cobb’s rendition of the popular children’s song Five Monkeys Jumping on the Bed had the children enthusiastically singing or yelling out the refrain “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!” He celebrated words in various ways and asked for some back-up singers to be chosen by the teachers as he divided the room into two groups while he continued with another song with the children singing the refrain, “It’s all in the words, boys and girls, join the adventure and read”. The children happily joined in as each group vied to be the loudest, and the room resounded with their voices.
In another activity, Cobb instructed the children to use their arm as a drumstick and slap their hand on their thigh to keep the tempo of the song he was singing demonstrating rhythm as he banged on a drum.
Cobb projected each page of some of his stories onto a large screen on the school stage as he read and/or sang aloud the text. He explained how his own children gave him ideas for his stories and how he used moments in his life for the inspiration to write those stories. His son was fascinated by clouds and inspired the bedtime story Boy on the Hill about a boy who turns the clouds into animals. Demonstrating how he liked to tease his daughter, he used those personal moments to write Daddy Did I Ever Say I Love You, Love You Every Day?
He even asked the students to help him write a story and showed them a photograph of a typical neighborhood and went around the room asking them what they saw. Answers included houses, grass, trees, a street, mailboxes, a car, windows, doors, etc. Then on the screen, he showed conceptual drawings as to how those ideas were developed into a colorful and graphic illustration of a neighborhood that eventually became the first page in his book Do Pirates Go to School?
Another activity involved two teacher volunteers, Jennifer Grlica and Nicole Caratulo, who were assigned to read the text of Daryl’s pirate book from the video screen while student Scott Bammer was chosen to become Pirate Pete. He already had on a red shirt and a pirate hat, but Cobb added a magical pirate hoop earring and an eye patch to complete the look. As Grlica and Caratulo read, Pirate Pete had to carry out the actions as they read them – jumping up, falling down, putting on his boots, running (in place), etc. Cobb even taught the students pirate lingo including aargh, ahoy, blimey, swab the deck, shiver me timbers, poop deck, all hands on deck, etc. And then there was the exciting duel between Pirate Pete and Cobb using their index finger as a sword that found them chasing each other all around the room to the squeals and cheers of the students. Pirate Pete emerged the victor!
This assembly was the last activity in the school’s Read Across America Week, actually adding on one extra day for a six-day celebration. That previous Monday, students kicked off the celebration by wearing a hat for Hats Off to Reading. The following day, students were encouraged to follow the theme Oh the Places You’ll Go by wearing clothes that showed what job they wanted to do when they grew up or traditional clothes worn in a country that they would like to visit. Wednesday was Picture Day-Dress to Impress! and the students were asked to wear their favorite fancy clothes. Come Thursday, it was Crazy Hair/Crazy Sock Day followed on Friday with Pajama Day.
In addition, guest readers throughout the week included Mayor Eric Wilsusen, EMTs from the township’s first aid squads, and police officers. Jefferson Township’s own local author Roxie Warner was also a guest reader. In 2013, she co-authored the book Mama, Mama! What Will I Be? with her son Hunter who was then a second grader at Cozy Lake School.