When Goodwin Elementary School students left on March 2, the school lobby was empty. When they returned the next morning, the lobby had a magical change: Overnight, a replica of the Magic Tree House had appeared and stood there in the lobby to mark Goodwin’s Celebrating Reading day.
It’s a place that children’s book readers would recognize. Siblings Jack and Annie are the series’ main characters and the Magic Tree House is where they go to be transported on special missions and adventures. The book series currently numbers more than 50 titles.
As in the Jack and Annie books, Goodwin School students visited the magical space throughout the day with their teachers and classmates. Thanks to PTA donations, each student visiting the Magic Tree House that day through the New to You program got to choose an age-appropriate book to transport them, just like Jack and Annie, to magical places to explore new characters, adventures and stories.
“The Magic Tree House is one of those series that really hooks kids on reading,” said Goodwin School Principal Heston Sutman. “They relate to Jack and Annie, to the magic, and to the adventures that take them anywhere.”
Making Goodwin’s own Magic Tree House structure was Sutman’s idea, but many volunteer hands helped create the finished product. Paraprofessional Sue Liberty used brown craft paper and black magic marker to make simulated wooden planks to line the treehouse inside. A parent who is also an art teacher drew and attached figures of two children to the treehouse’s exterior wall. The PTA added special, realistic details like lanterns and a rope ladder (just used for decoration) next to one of the Tree House entrances.
“Inside, it is set up as a library, with books for different age levels” on carts, said Sutman.
Visits to The Magic Tree House on March 3 were just one of the special experiences planned for Celebrating Reading Day. Each classrooms also had special guest readers who would read aloud from books they chose and engage in dialogue with the students.
In Robin Webb’s 3rd-grade classroom, School Resource Officer Lawerence Rooney read aloud from the book Police Officers by Dee Ready. Rooney used the book’s pages, which highlighted many aspects of police work, to explain the duties and responsibilities of police officers. He said that no matter what, a police officer will always go to a house from where there has been a 911 call to verify whether or not there is a problem. He also explained how policemen process and investigate a crime scene like the site of a burglary. The students were attentive and eager to ask him questions when he finished reading the book.
Students also participated in the contest to guess the number of books in the school library; one classroom per grade level was declared the winner for getting closest to the number. For the winning classroom, a new book was presented to add the classroom collection. Each classroom door was decorated to spotlight an author the students had studied.
Third-grade students took a field trip to Acton Public Library to do a scavenger hunt to explore the library and got to sign up for a library card.
Book Author Rabe Delights
The day also included two engaging hour-long presentations in the gymnasium by children’s book author Tish Rabe, writer of 54 Cat in the Hat books and 167 children’s books in all.
“When I was in high school, I loved to sing and to write,” said Rabe.
She attended Ithaca College and majored in vocal performance; this choice led to her first job after college, working in the music department of what was then a new TV show, Sesame Street. It also led to frustration, because it was her job to book the singers for shows rather than to be one of those singers. A year after joining the show, however,she finally got her chance—her singing debut was with Oscar the Grouch singing the song I Love Trash together.
She said she still loved to write, and so she went to the Sesame Street children’s book department to see if she could write there. Her first proposal was based on her own experience of when her kitten raced around the kitchen causing her to bump the table, sending her grandmother’s teapot flying onto the floor. The theme was love and forgiveness and the story was written for Bert and Ernie.
So began her writing career, a career that continues to this day.