Bringing Book Characters to Life
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
MARCH 3, 2017 – Today, third-grader Maliva Sinclair came to school as Dr. Kitty Cat, the star of a series of children’s books.
It was easy for Maliva to choose the character she wanted to be in the book character parade this morning at Jefferson Elementary.
“I like cats,” she said.
She likes Dr. Kitty in particular because she fixes up patients. At the moment, Maliva is thinking about becoming a veterinarian one day.
The parade was one of many activities held this week at Jefferson as part of its Read Across America celebration. Many other Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools also held fun activities designed to celebrate reading.
Today is an especially big day for one of Maliva’s classmates. It’s Johnathan Takyi’s birthday. He was born on March 3, 2008. In the parade, he was portraying Chewbacca, the star of not only the Star War movies but also of books based on the characters.
He didn’t know what the rest of the day was going to bring. Whatever it was, he knew it was going to be good.
“My mom has a surprise for me,” Johnathan said.
Maliva and Johnathan are students in Stephanie Valenti’s class. Like many teachers and other staff members at Jefferson, she, too, had dressed up as a book character. She chose to be Stephanie from Stephanie’s Ponytail.
Principal Debbie McIntyre chose to be Ladybug Girl from the book of the same name because, when McIntyre’s daughter Amanda – who is now majoring in elementary education at Appalachian State University – was little, she really liked having her mom read it to her.
“She loved the free spirit of the Ladybug Girl,” said McIntyre, who was wearing ladybug wings and a tutu.
Liz Santalesa, who was dressed as The Cat in the Hat, stopped long enough to pose in front of a giant version of her favorite Dr. Seuss book – Green Eggs and Ham.
“I used to sit there and read it over and over to my kids,” Santalesa said.
Instructional facilitator Marcia Warren also portrayed The Cat in the Hat. Counselor Cassie Beno was portraying Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus stories.
“I love how adventurous the stories are,” Beno said. “They are always fun. The kids love them.”
One of the more impressive costumes was Moose, the star of Mooseltoe and other books. Stacey Bryant, who is the Exceptional Children case manager at Jefferson, said it was the creation of her husband, Tony.
Bryant, who likes that Moose is good at solving problems, has never seen a moose in real life.
“I really wish I had,” she said, adding that she might have to add it to her list of things she definitely wants to experience.
Speech therapist Elizabeth Witt chose to be Harry Potter, partly because she loves the books and partly because she liked having the opportunity to carry around a wand that she could use to zap the love of reading into students.
Second-grade teacher Cornelia Cain chose to be Thing 1. One of the things she likes about the Thing 1 and Thing 2 characters is that, although someone might think they are the same, they’re not. Each one is unique – just as each child is unique.
Amy Talley, who is an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, dressed as Elizabeth, the princess from The Paper Bag Princess.
In case you’re wondering why a princess would wear a paper bag, it‘s because a fire-breathing dragon burned up all of her regular princess outfits. After the dragon kidnaps her fiancé, she rescues him. Talley likes the book’s message.
“It’s not about how you dress,” she said. “It’s what’s inside that determines how powerful you are. Women can be their own heroes.”
Third-grader Quinn Crater likes the Harry Potter books. For his character, he chose not Harry but Ron Weasley.
“He is my favorite book character,” Quinn said. “He’s really funny in the books.”
Third-grader Auryanna Jones was carrying plastic dinosaurs to represent Claire, from the Jurassic World movie and book.
If it were possible to see a real dinosaur, is that something Auryanna would like to do?
Third-grader Annaliese Joiner chose Fancy Nancy from the Fancy Nancy books.
“I like fancy stuff,” Annaliese said.
She was dressed a little fancier than usual today but, no matter what day it is, she likes to add a special touch to her outfit.
“I wear something pretty every day,” she said.
Daniela Mendez-Sandoval was Jane Goodall, who, at the age of 26, left London for Africa where she studied chimpanzees.
“I read her biography,” Daniela said. “It’s pretty fun. You get to learn how chimps talk.”
When Daniela grows up, she wants to be a doctor.
First-grader Camden Biggs really likes the I Spy books in which you look for hidden object. He has 10 of the books.
His mom had created an I Spy costume for him by taking such items as crayons, toy cars, a Batman figure, a key chain and a candy cane and attaching them to a T-shirt.
Other characters at Jefferson included:
Mindcraft characters (Logan Kimak and Dylan Faude); Black Panther (Nathan Alexander), a character from the Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet series.; Capt. Phasma (John Curtis), a Star Wars character; Mickey Mouse (Darius France); and Claudine (Ja’Nique Linder) from Monster High.
“I love wolves and Claudine is a wolf,” Ja’Nique said.
When it was time for the parade, everyone headed to the gym, one of the people awaiting them was Cathy Huffman, who taught first-grade at Jefferson until she retired at the end of 2016. After retiring, she adopted a rescue dog. She named him Charlie after the Bassett hound in Charlie the Ranch Dog.
She had come to Jefferson earlier in the morning to read to all of the first-graders at Jefferson. Along with Charlie the Ranch Dog, she brought Harry the Dirty Dog, which definitely described Charlie when she got him. She had to give him a bath, which he did not care for. Later, when she let him out in her back yard one day, he discovered a hole under the fence that she didn’t know was there. He went on an adventure and was quite dirty when a neighbor found and returned him. So she had to wash him again.
She brought in a picture to show the students.
“The expression on his face is priceless,” Huffman said. “If he could talk, I'm guessing he is saying, ‘Oh, no...not again!’"
Lots of parents came, too. One of them was Tanya Reece. Her son Nathan, who is in second grade, was portraying The Lorax from the Dr. Seuss book. She had made a Lorax mustache for Nathan for one of the activities earlier in the week. He liked it so much that he decided to be The Lorax again today.
Reece said she enjoyed seeing what everyone had come up with.
“I’m proud of these kids,” she said. “They really got creative.”