BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield’s public schools celebrated Read Across America last week, with each day offering something new for students. School and township officials visited classrooms to read, children wore pajamas or something wacky and, of course, Dr. Seuss was almost everywhere.
But this year, as explained by Franklin Elementary guidance counselor Stephen Untisz, stories about inclusiveness were highlighted at Franklin. In the gym, there was a reading by New York Giants tight end Evan Engram. Assisted by media specialist Emily Tomkins on the slide projector, Engram read a story about friendship by Beth Ferry titled “Stick and Stone.” A University of Mississippi graduate, Engram had his left foot in a rehabilitation boot and said it would be like that for another two weeks. When he finished reading, he fielded questions about himself. The children learned that he lived in Powder Springs, Ga., that he loved football and that he worked hard at it. When asked if he had any archenemies, he said all football players are brothers who have overcome the same obstacles.
“We understand we’re all in this together,” he said.
One student asked how long had he been playing soccer; Engram said he never played soccer but has played football since he was 4. Another child wanted to know if he played basketball. He said he did play, not as well as football, but his sister played professionally. His sister is Mackenzie Engram, who was drafted in 2018 by the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA.
Principal Marianne Abbasso said books that incorporated social/emotional learning skills were chosen for the weeklong event.
“We use literature to promote good citizenship,” she said at the school.
Assistant schools Superintendent and Director of Curriculum Joseph Fleres said he also celebrates the world of literature.
“Read Across America week is a great time for all of our staff and students,” he said in an email. “This year, some schools focused around the themes of diversity and inclusivity to drive their activities and events for this fun and exciting week. This only adds to the plethora of social/emotional learning opportunities for our students and staff alike.”
Media specialist Tomkins said lower-grade students have made the “Elephant and Piggie” series, by Mo Willems, very popular. And every once in a while, a book or series comes along that sparks a lot of student interest. An example was “The 39-Clues” series, which fifth-graders love.
“They see their friends reading it,” she said.
Tomkins also encourages online reading, with Chromebook use spreading into the lower grades.
“I like them to explore e-books,” she said, “rather than play games.”
Photos by Daniel Jackovino and the Bloomfield School District