Dining for Literature; at Stockton Elementary, Reading Pays

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland, Staff writer

The Co-read-ian Comedian was there in his traveling salesman garb--gray flannel suit, derby hat and hefty suitcase.

So was Johnny Appleseed in blue overalls, plaid shirt, boots and bearing apples, of course.

And so was Frannie B. Crannie You Have Birds in Your Hair, whose curly red tresses were topped with a bird's nest.

The event was Stockton Elementary School's Literary Dinner Theater to promote love of reading. And along with other reading campaign activities, it's paid off.

Last year, 80 percent of the students reached Superintendent John Fryer's goal of reading 25 books. With more than two months yet to go this year, that number already has been surpassed. As of January, students had read more than 22,515 books, said Gayle Runion, a reading tutor and substitute teacher at the Ortega Forest school.

"You really do see it in the kids," Runion said. "When they finish their work, they take out a book."

The PTA and Media Center have been sponsoring the theater for the past five years.

"As adults, we attend live theater productions and have dinner out," Runion said. "We wanted the children to experience this as well."

The theme was even carried out in table centerpieces which PTA member Lori Hayes created by tying bundles of books with ribbons and helium balloons. The 164 students, who attended on a recent Friday night, dined on Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, chips and chocolate chip cookies while the "Co-read-ian Comedian," an Orlando actor, used a suitcase full of props to arouse enthusiasm for books.

He mimed, did dress-up skits with the children (think sumo wrestlers) and had them depict characters from such books as Stuart Little. During his presentation, he went through several costume changes, going from a suit to Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts.

Afterward, the students broke into small groups and went into classrooms to hear community leaders, teachers and family members read a story. …