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Friday, March 1, 2024

Your Favorite Book

Huntington Beach leaders take time out for reading

By Matt SzaboMarch 1, 2024
Second-graders cheer as Huntington Beach Public Affairs Officer Julie Toledo reads to them.

Second-graders cheer as Huntington Beach Public Affairs Officer Julie Toledo reads to them during Peterson Elementary’s Read Across America event on Friday.

(Eric Licas)

Dozens of Huntington Beach community leaders gathered at Peterson Elementary School on Friday morning.

They had a need. A need to read.

Peterson hosted its seventh annual event in conjunction with Read Across America Week. The National Education Assn. launched Read Across America in 1998 as a year-round program to celebrate reading, with special recognition of Read Across America Day on March 2 — the late Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Peterson Elementary kindergarten students perform a song inspired by Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” in celebration of Read Across America on Friday.

(Eric Licas)

Given that his birthday falls on a Saturday this year, Peterson got a head start on the fun a day early.

“We’re very proud of our literacy rates,” Peterson Elementary Principal Kevin Smith-Johnson said. “Huntington Beach averages not quite double the proficiency of the state average. We’re way out in front, but it’s something you can’t ever back down on. You’ve got a new group of kids every single year that you want to get all the way up to proficient.”

Community leaders were paired up, including five City Council members, Huntington Beach City School District Board of Trustees members, Orange County Board of Education members and police and fire department representatives. They were led around campus by Peterson fifth-grade ASB student ambassadors and read to each classroom in three 15-minute shifts.

Dwyer Middle School Principal Christa Glembocki laughs while reading stories to fourth and fifth graders taking part in Read Across America at Peterson Elementary School on Friday.

(Eric Licas)

Each participant was asked to bring a favorite book to read, which didn’t have to be a Dr. Seuss book. District Supt. Leisa Winston started out by reading “I Don’t Want to Be a Frog” to Socorro Alvarez’s kindergarten class.

Peterson second-grade GATE teacher Joy Forgiarini’s students enjoyed reading time with Police Lt. Thoby Archer and Lt. Brian Smith, board President Diana Marks and trustee Paul Morrow, as well as Huntington Beach Public Affairs Officer Julie Toledo.

Toledo read a couple of different books, including one titled, “A Sock Is a Pocket for Your Toes.”

“It really is!” a student exclaimed at one point.

Huntington Beach Police Lt. Julio Mendez, right, and Chief Eric Parra greet students at Peterson Elementary School on Friday.

(Eric Licas)

She told the second-graders that the book had special meaning, as she used to read it to her two now-grown boys.

“They love having all of the different readers come to them,” Forgiarini said of her students. “They really enjoy listening to the different stories, and it’s also nice that they read books that are special to them, like Julie just did. It’s not only Dr. Seuss books; it’s a love for all different types of books.”

Meanwhile, Dwyer Middle School Principal Christa Glembocki read “The Night Before Middle School” to three classes of fifth-grade students before answering questions about what campus life was like at Dwyer.

Peterson Elementary School Principal Kevin Smith-Johnson greets participants in Friday’s “Read Across America” event.

(Eric Licas)

Smith-Johnson said Peterson is the only elementary school in the district that sends kids to more than one middle school. About two-thirds of his students will go to Dwyer, while a third will go to Sowers, the other middle school in town.

Sowers Principal Jeff Smith also participated on Friday.

“We try to get both schools involved in everything that we do, just so that they can have that connection to the next school that they’re rolling up to,” Smith-Johnson said.

Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark poses with “The Cool Bean” during Friday’s event at Peterson Elementary.

(Eric Licas)

Festivities concluded with a performance by Peterson kindergarten students and a big group picture outside.

The event is a labor of love for co-chairs Laura Costelloe and Deanna Garza, both of whom are past PTA presidents at Peterson.

The school certainly takes its reading seriously. Smith-Johnson said that Peterson has a Million Word Readers Club. Last school year, 23 students read a million or more words, and several hit two million words.

“Literacy growth in general is one of our district priorities for our five-year plan,” he said. “Everything we do, we try to tie it back to that.” 

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." - John Quincy Adams