April 12, 2006

Schools Celebrate Reading

There is no greater gift a child can receive than the gift of reading.

Students at the Phillips Avenue School in Riverhead recently spent a week celebrating their love of reading. "Phillips Avenue Reading Week" included a reading-based activity for every day of the week.

For example, last Wednesday was "Poem In Your Pocket Day." Phillips Avenue Principal Thomas Payton handed a pencil to every student who could produce a poem from his or her pocket and recite it on demand.

"I gave out every pencil I ordered," said Payton, who gifted students with over 200 by day's end.

One memory students are sure to savor is a challenge issued to them by their principal at the beginning of the week.

Payton promised he would have his head shaved if the students could read a total of at least 60,000 minutes that week at home.

Payton, who had not had his hair cut since last December and had beautiful, thick, wavy black hair, told the cheering children that they had not read 60,000 minutes, but had in fact read 96,844 minutes that week. Then, he pulled back the curtain on the stage to reveal first grader Kenny Ramos' mother, Luisa, a hairdresser, and her son, Juan, a barber from Luisa's Magic Scissors in Riverhead, waiting to cut Payton's hair.

"Kenny was very enthusiastic about Reading Week," explained Ramos. "Every night, he would say, 'Come on, Mama, we've got to sit down and do our reading!' I think the challenge was a very good idea."

Payton took a seat on stage as the students shouted in unison, "Cut his hair. Cut his hair. Cut his hair!"

The clippers began to buzz and the long, wavy hair floated to the floor. First graders Kenny Ramos and Cara Palermo watched closely as Juan worked. Mrs. Ramos assisted, wiping Juan's face as he cut away. Then Juan took the microphone and asked the students: "How's that?"

"Cut it shorter, cut it shorter . . ." they shouted in unison.

Payton looked worried. Juan attached another blade and began to cut again. Kenny grinned.

Finally, the clippers were silenced. Mrs. Ramos held up a mirror.

In other school news, in celebration of the school production Oklahoma and National Library Week, Riverhead High School Library/Media Specialist Suzanne Conklin hosted a student puzzle contest. The contest was a word search with lots of phrases from the play Oklahoma, explained Conklin.

Sixty-one students entered; 34 had correct puzzles and were eligible for first and second prize drawings.

The winners were Samantha Messina, first place, and second place winners Gabe Kendrot, Nick Contino, and Alice Falcone.

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