On Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 6:00 pm during a mild but rare Southern California rain, we held our first Superintendent’s Reading Forum. Parents and staff were invited and a few dedicated folks came even though it was a day before the last day of school before the Winter break. The evening turned out to be quite profound.

We asked various folks connected deeply to Reading to be discussants. We asked them the following;

1. Please read a passage of a book or text that has significance to you.
2. What does reading mean to you?
3. How can we help all Rio children be interested and excellent readers?

Each Discussant spent between 5 and 10 minutes to respond and they did a beautiful job. various themes emerged about reading that were unplanned but consistent across the discussants’ comments.

You can listen and see the whole event on twitter periscope as Carlo Godoy recorded the event for us. You can find it at our new channel for such stuff:RioSDLive @RioSDLive on twitter https://twitter.com/RioSDLive.

The discussants were Wanda Kelly, Patrick Radford, Sara Juarez, Aimee Stoll, Courtney Downing, Scott Barlow, John Puglisi, (Fishbowl). Theye were all great.

Ms. Kelly, our Director of Innovation, Partnerships, and Principal Support read a passage from a text about people who were suffering a severe trauma and the impact reading and the written word can have.

Mr. Radford, a custodian, now groundskeeper, and former military man, recited Invictus from memory. He told us of both of his parent’s love of reading and about the power of the written word. He suggested that the key to finding reading as lifelong pursuit was finding something that you are interested in. he suggested that no matter it is, whatever the passion or curiosity, there would be writing about and things to learn through text.

Ms. Juarez, kindergarten teacher and TOSA, Teacher on Special Assignment, read a passage from the Phantom of the Tollbooth that involved the actual eating of words. She highlighted the very personal but also social aspects of reading. She along with many others are leading the charge to have every Rio student become an interested and excellent reader.

Aimee Stoll, teacher and partner from California Lutheran University and the CRLP project read a passage with great inflection and expression. She spoke to the processes we are engaging in to first help children get the basics of reading and then learn to find deeper and deeper comprehension.

Courtney Downing, a Rio teacher, read from several passages that took us through her journey as a reader beginning with a book Splishy Splashy that her father read with her as a little girl. She and others talked about how reading can transport the reader to far off places and how reading and learning are synonymous.

Dr. Scott Barlow, principal of Rio Del Mar, read a passage about the sinking of the Andrea Doria. The text had helped him flip the switch to become a reader and was perhaps influential to his first career in the Navy.

Finally, I chose a bilingual poem I found on the web.

Bilingual/Bilingüe

BY RHINA P. ESPAILLAT
My father liked them separate, one there,
one here (allá y aquí), as if aware
that words might cut in two his daughter’s heart
(el corazón) and lock the alien part
to what he was—his memory, his name
(su nombre)—with a key he could not claim.
“English outside this door, Spanish inside,”
he said, “y basta.” But who can divide
the world, the word (mundo y palabra) from
any child? I knew how to be dumb
and stubborn (testaruda); late, in bed,
I hoarded secret syllables I read
until my tongue (mi lengua) learned to run
where his stumbled. And still the heart was one.
I like to think he knew that, even when,
proud (orgulloso) of his daughter’s pen,
he stood outside mis versos, half in fear
of words he loved but wanted not to hear.

Horizons Go (Kirksville, MO: New Odyssey Books, 1998).

This poem made me think of my parents, one an avid reader of books and plays and another who I never saw read a book but did observe reading the newspaper and doing the crossword with great facility.

All in all it was a great event. Folks who were there enjoyed it. One parent answered the survey question What does reading mean to you? with one word. IMAGINATION. I loved that.

My wife Sarah, a teacher, was not there in body but was there in spirit as I recanted her responses
to the questions? She remarked that it was the book My side of the mountain, that made her a reader. The book was about a little boy that like to wander in the woods. She said that was how she was as a child. She remarked that she was amazed to hear the boys’ voice in the book and to realize that that could happen in a book.

All in all it was a great event.