Piece of Mind: Reading promise in the future of local schools

Several La Cañada schools-related events caught our attention this month: As reported last week, some 50 out-of-district parents camped out in hopes of securing places for their children in our public system for the next school year; the machine that is the 2010-11 LCHS Spartan basketball team took not only the league championship but also made it well into the state finals; and the LCF Educational Foundation staged its annual fundraising spring gala, a wonderful event last Saturday that raised in the neighborhood of $350,000 for our schools.

There were, of course, also many activities going on at the individual schools as this academic year enters its final few months. My personal favorite took place March 1 when students welcomed guests onto the La Cañada Elementary School campus for the annual Community Read-in.

It will sadden me if I’m ever dropped off the list of people invited to read aloud to a classroom full of La Cañada’s bright and engaged youths. There’s nothing that gives me more pleasure than to hold a children’s book in my hands and read aloud from it to an audience that’s obviously intrigued by having an unfamiliar face in the classroom.

The attention these youngsters give to their visiting readers is impressive. Their manners are impeccable; no squirming, no interrupting and nary a spitball thrown. Not only that, but every single student wrote a thank-you note to the reader who’d entertained them for a mere 20 minutes or so.

If you are one of the lucky readers, you are presented a few days after the event with a folder that includes all of the sweet, hand-written missives.

This year, I was assigned to read to teacher Sue Fuelling’s fourth-grade class. What a delightful group of youngsters! But before I even met them I realized I was in for an especially good experience, because their teacher went out of her way to find just the right book for me to read.

So that I could best prepare, Mrs. Fuelling even went to the effort of picking up the book from the school library and delivering it to our office a few days in advance of my visit. It was a welcoming gesture that I appreciated more than she probably realized.

The visit went off without a hitch. I managed to give a boffo reading. We had enough time left over to chat a bit about my career and the importance of knowing how to write with clarity.

A week later, Mrs. Fuelling was at our door again—this time delivering her students’ thank-you notes. I devoured them within minutes, delighting in the carefully drawn pictures at the top of each one and the well-crafted notes below.

This is an inquisitive group. All of them would make good reporters, as they not only offered words of thanks; they also peppered me with questions and told me a bit about themselves.

While some found my job interesting, they already have their eyes on other careers. Shalini wrote that it “would be awesome to be a reporter; although, when I grow up I want to be a brain surgeon.” Her classmate Keiko looks forward to being an “inventing scientist,” and Vince has hopes of one day becoming a Major League baseball player.

I feel for John, the youngest member of his blended family, who wrote “…All my siblings are older, which stinks.” I agree, John, but take it from this baby of the family, somehow you’ll muddle through.

I’m taking a hint from Harrison’s closing words that I might be invited back: “Well, see you later!”

I hope it’s soon, Harrison. You kids are great.

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the Valley Sun. E-mail her at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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