National Reading Day at Troy School

Troy families celebrate reading with cookies, characters and free books

By KAITLIN MULHERE Sentinel Staff
| Posted: Sunday, February 2, 2014 8:00 am

The gasp spread slowly at first through the crowd at Troy Elementary School.

But as parents nudged and pointed, each of the students’ heads whipped around toward the doors to see a familiar big red dog waving.

Clifford’s visit was one of several sources of excitement for students at the school’s first National Reading Day family night last month. Students also ate cookies and milk, left with new books to read and crossed their fingers for prizes on the raffle table.

“That excitement is why we do it,” said Bethany Rafail, after a young student gave a whoop of excitement upon learning that her name was in the raffle.

Rafail, the school’s new reading specialist, said a few years ago (at a previous job), she was looking for a school holiday to build a family celebration night around. When she found National Reading Day, which is on Jan. 23, she knew she could run with it.

Rafail wanted to host an event where families could enjoy sitting and reading together, she said. She also wanted to support an environment where families are welcome and comfortable in their children’s school.

Rafail teamed up with Alyssa Smith, the Troy school’s ACES 93 after-school program coordinator, to host the event.

As part of the celebration of National Reading Day, each class pledged to read a certain amount of books during the first weeks of January. Every group either met or surpassed its goal, for a school total of 615 books, Rafail said.

Schools across the country celebrate the day, and so this was also a way to tie Troy Elementary to something bigger, she said.

Along the side of the room sat five tables with hundreds of donated books ranging from older classics, such as Nancy Drew mysteries, to newer favorites, such as the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.

“Our goal is to put new titles in your home supply of books, so please, don’t leave without a stack of books,” Rafail told the families.

Parents and students sat in their pajamas with blankets and pillows and read at the beginning of the night. As the night went on, students sprawled on their bellies with their chins on their hands and listened to teachers recite a poem and then an electronic reading of a Clifford book.

Jennifer Walton and Stuart Rothberg brought kindergartner Skyla Walton to the event because they thought it’d be fun and a great way to meet Skyla’s classmates.

“She loves books and she loves coming to school,” Jennifer Walton, Skyla’s mom, said.

They brought a pile of books from home to read while Skyla snuggled in a few blankets, including “The Napping House,” which “she pretty much knows by heart,” Jennifer Walton said. They also brought home a new book called “I Like Me” that Skyla had read in class.

Rafail said she plans to make the night an annual event.