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Peterson Elementary in Huntington Beach celebrates Read Across America

Dr. Leisa Winston reads "Stanley's Wild Ride" to third-graders during National Read Across America Day.
Huntington Beach City School District Supt. Leisa Winston, far right, reads “Stanley’s Wild Ride” to third-graders in Monica Nash’s classroom during National Read Across America Day on Wednesday morning at Peterson Elementary School in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
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Community leaders in Huntington Beach gathered at Peterson Elementary on Wednesday morning to celebrate national Read Across America Day, an annual event started by the National Education Assn. aimed at getting kids excited about reading.

Read Across America Day happens each year on March 2, the birthday of late children’s book author Dr. Seuss.

Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize, City Councilwoman Natalie Moser, Fire Chief Scott Haberle and other leaders read to children at Peterson in three 15-minute increments Wednesday, rotating to visit different grades and classrooms. After each reading session, they engaged in a question-and-answer session with the kids, from preschool through fifth grade.

Peterson Principal Kevin Johnson, a self-described avid reader, said it was nice to have the Read Across America event in person again after it had to be presented online last year during the coronavirus pandemic. The event is organized by the Peterson Parent Teacher Assn.

Mayor Barbara Delgleize reads to kids in Joy Forgiarini's classroom during National Read Across America Day on Wednesday.
Mayor Barbara Delgleize reads to second-graders in Joy Forgiarini’s classroom during National Read Across America Day on Wednesday morning at Peterson Elementary School in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“Every year, this becomes a bigger and bigger event here at Peterson,” Johnson said. “We’re in the middle of a full-campus modernization, and this is the first event we have gotten to do back in person since the lockdown started two years ago ... It’s nice to see things getting back to normal on campus. As you can see, it’s supported quite heavily by the community. They make it a priority, and we’re just excited that they like to share their love for literacy with our kids.”

Other guest readers included Huntington Beach City School District Supt. Leisa Winston and Board of Trustees members Bridget Kaub and Diana Marks, as well as Orange County Board of Education President Mari Barke and California State PTA President Carol Green.

“This is the last year I have a kid at Peterson, but I hope to come back,” said guest reader Jill Hardy, a former City Council member who teaches math at Marina High. “For a lot of us, it’s become a tradition to take the day off and come here.”

Laura Costelloe said she has no kids left at Peterson for the first time in more than a decade, but she remains involved with the PTA and organizes the Read Across America event. She also sits on the city’s Community & Library Services Commission.

Fire Chief Scott Haberle, far left, reads "Dragons Love Tacos" to first-graders in Christine Netter's classroom on Wednesday.
Fire Chief Scott Haberle, far left, reads “Dragons Love Tacos” to first-graders in Christine Netter’s classroom during National Read Across America Day on Wednesday morning at Peterson Elementary School in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“Our prior principal [Constance Polhemus] had an idea of inviting community leaders, and I just took it and ran with it,” Costelloe said, adding she was helped by school sponsor Matt Kanoudi and his dad Moe Kanoudi. “I think the biggest thing is that the community leader that comes into their classroom ... that could be them. It gives these kids an opportunity to get to know somebody who has made such an impact in the community, and to actually realize that could be them.”

The morning at Peterson ended with a song and dance number performed by Peterson kindergarten students, based on the Dr. Seuss book “Green Eggs and Ham.” Everyone then took a group photo in front of a Huntington Beach Fire Department firetruck.

Other local school districts also celebrated Read Across America. In Newport-Mesa Unified School District, Supt. Wesley Smith recently read to children at Whittier Elementary.

Ocean View School District spokeswoman Trish Montgomery said the district had a full array of activities planned for Wednesday, including school assemblies at Westmont, Lake View and Hope View elementary schools. Reading was held in classrooms at Golden View Elementary, and Star View Elementary held a schoolwide literacy parade.

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