Literacy Night celebrates pride, shows appreciation to voters
From the outside, it might have sounded like a church revival.
Inside, children at Beechwood Elementary School were singing with pride -- for their school, their individuality and for the love of their country.
March 7 marked Beechwood's seventh annual Literacy Night, though it was the first one in their new building.
Not only was the celebration marking National Right to Read Week, but it also was a way to show voters their appreciation for helping to pay for their new digs, organizers said.
"It's a way for us to thank our community for passing our levy, for supporting our schools and for supporting our students," said Michelle Zugaro, a second-grade teacher and Literacy Night organizer. "This school is amazing. We went out and asked the voters to give our kids their turn, and we had an unprecedented turnout."
The 2008 bond issue passed by an overwhelming 63 percent, allowing for the construction of five new schools in Whitehall.
As part of the event's theme, "Amazing America," parents, grandparents and students gathered in classrooms to create a self-portrait with construction paper, yarn, glue and crayons. Attached to their portraits' faces, they added a pledge to make America a better place to live.
For some, it meant cleaning up their room or trying to be better in class. For others, like 8-year-old Xavier Plummer, it meant even more.
"I can make my country a better place by helping people clean up the earth and listening to my mom, grandmother and teacher," he wrote on the cardstock provided.
Plummer, a Beechwood second-grader, was proud of his work, which will be displayed with hundreds of others throughout the school. After putting on the final touches, the second-grader was ready to head to the school's cafeteria for an all-American dinner of hot dogs, chips and juice.
"My favorite part today was the signing of the Pledge of Allegiance," said Plummer, who said it was part of his class' performance at the start of the evening.
Six-year-old Isaac O'Neil agreed. When asked if it was difficult to learn, being a first-grader, he replied, "Nah. It was easy."
He and Plummer were part of a first- and second-grade performance that kicked off the event, complete with renditions of Elton John's Philadelphia Freedom and Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American, with an impromptu Hang On Sloopy added.
"Today, their classrooms are filled with so many people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities," Zugaro said. "Yet we are all friends; we are all part of this Beechwood family."
Zugaro said the event also was an important part of the school's family unit, bringing mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and children together for a group project. The self-portrait stirred deep conversations among many family members as they discussed why it is important to contribute to their country.
The project was grounded in the book, I Am American, by Charles R. Smith Jr., who expounds on all things American in a very simple and colorful style.
Several books were raffled off at the end of the evening.
Nine-year-old Peter Gibson was one of the lucky winners, running down the aisle like he had just won the lottery.
It was a night when everyone was a winner, Zugaro said -- parents, students and community.