For many of us, there is nothing more enjoyable than curling up with a good book and reading away the afternoon. With this activity in mind, Class 3 teachers invited their students to come to school one recent Friday wearing cozy pajamas and warm slippers in place of their usual uniforms. The comfortable attire, along with pillows, blankets and a handful of stuffed animals, helped these students happily settle into the second annual Reading Appreciation Day, which took place on March 16.
This year, in addition to escaping into their favorite titles, the students were treated to a very special guest who also loves to read: Head of School Dr. Patricia Hayot! As the designated hour arrived, anticipation filled the room where students gathered. A hand-drawn sign – Welcome Dr. Hayot! – hung from the board, and, below, a welcoming pink-and-white plush unicorn sat expectantly.
“She’s here! She’s here!” exclaimed three official greeters, who were watching intently from the door. In a flash, a delighted Dr. Hayot walked in. Clutching a blue hardback storybook in one hand and her eyeglasses in the other, she slowly made her way through the cluster of eager readers to the front of the room, where a pillow-embellished chair awaited.
“I’m so excited to be here!” Dr. Hayot remarked as she sat down and surveyed the room of bright faces. “What could be better than reading with all of you? I’d take this over sleeping in and having 15 snow days!”
The special guest told the students that she has enjoyed reading ever since she was a little girl and that, sometimes, the experience can be emotional. “I get sadness in my heart when I come to the end of a book,” explained Dr. Hayot, whose eclectic tastes include historical fiction and science-related writing. “I always worry that I am not going to find a book I love as much, but I usually do.”
Then, in a quietly expressive voice, she turned her attention to “Stellaluna,” written and exquisitely illustrated by Janell Cannon.
“In a warm and sultry forest, far, far away, there once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby.”
“This has a great beginning with a juicy word!” Dr. Hayot commented, interrupting herself. “What is the juicy word?” she asked the students. “Sultry!” several answered in unison.
“Doesn’t this look like photography?” Dr. Hayot asked her rapt audience as she ran her fingers over the intricately detailed drawings on the cover and inside the book. The girls nodded in agreement.
Returning to the story, Dr. Hayot continued, “Oh, how Mother Bat loved her soft tiny baby. ‘I’ll name you Stellaluna,’ she crooned.”
As “Stellaluna” unfolded, Dr. Hayot’s voice told the suspenseful, heartening story of a baby fruit bat thrown off her branch by a swooping owl. Suddenly separated from her mother, Stellaluna is forced to fend for herself until a caring family of sparrows takes her in, and she soon adopts their unusual habits, like sleeping in a nest, eating bugs and perching right-side up. Best of all, even though they are different species, Stellaluna and the birds (Pip, Flitter and Flap) become lasting friends, even after Stellaluna is joyfully reunited with her mother.
Asked to describe the book’s lesson, one student offered: “If people are different, you can still be friends with them.”
“What about some other voices?” encouraged Dr. Hayot. The students readily shared their thoughts about this beautiful book and its deeper messages:
“You shouldn’t change so someone else will like you. Only change to like yourself.”
“If you want real friends, be yourself.”
“They are both different but in good ways.”
“Even though they are different, they can still be friends.”
Dr. Hayot was clearly impressed by the insightful conversation that “Stellaluna” sparked and praised the girls for confidently speaking up and sharing their opinions. “You are all amazing. This was such a treat!” With that, she thanked these Class 3 students and their teachers and walked out of Room 400 to continue on with her busy morning, leaving behind a classroom filled with pajama-clad bibliophiles and dozens of glorious books.
Browse photos from Dr. Hayot's visit below: