By Erika Webb
Everyone at Manatee Cove Elementary School in Orange City got into character during Celebrate Literacy Week, Florida! Jan. 13-17.
The student body spent 120,117 minutes reading, said school counselor Charlena Durrance.
Celebrate Literacy Week is an annual event during which students, teachers, administrators, parents and volunteers all celebrate the tremendous success Florida's students have accomplished over the past decade, according to justreadflorida.com.
This year's theme, "Reading Accelerates Success," encouraged students to connect literacy with all kinds of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
"We also take the opportunity during the week to encourage our students to keep reading and improving their skills. We know that if Florida's students are going to shoot for the moon and achieve great success they must have the literacy skills that 21st century careers demand," the website states.
At Manatee Cove the week began with a visit from Ronald McDonald, who led an assembly for kindergarten, first and second graders.
During It's Book Time with Ronald McDonald, the recognizable red head read.
"He read them a book about bullying," Ms. Durrance said. "In the book it talked about how a bully can change from being a bully back into being a good person."
Then the fast-food figurehead invited second grade teacher William Abbey onto the stage to help perform magic tricks.
Mr. Abbey was transformed from teacher to ballerina to strongman to clown before being given a magic wand from which a banner reading "Manatee Cove Elementary School" unfurled. In exchange for being a good sport, Mr. Abbey got to keep the wand for his classroom.
Throughout the week each class had books to read and a contest to see who had the most accumulated reading hours, Ms. Durrance explained.
"Mrs. Stover's third and fourth (grade) combined gifted had the top amount of 16,200 minutes," the counselor said.
While the girls read about Junie B. Jones and princesses and the boys read about superheroes and such, Ms. Durrance's imagination propelled her to Ace Hardware in South Daytona where she said the hardware man was extra helpful.
First she had to explain she needed to be, rather than buy, a bucket.
It's kind of a long story.
"Friday ended the week with favorite book character dress up day," she explained.
She said the school's principal Alice Gonzalez dressed up as Mary Poppins while her assistant, Lori Neal became Bat Girl.
Slightly more chic than a bucket, but whatever.
It all started in the cafeteria, with a book called "How Full Is Your Bucket?"
Its moral is that showing kindness to others helps the giver as much as it does the receiver, teaching young readers the way they relate to others will have a profound effect on their lives.
"We have a program and we are bucket fillers, which is positive. We are not bucket dippers or takers," Ms. Durrance said.
In the cafeteria, she said, each class has a bucket and they get a "drop" placed in their bucket when they do a good job of being "fillers."
One may assume that means they are being orderly, using inside voices and not throwing food.
Thirty drops earns them lunch outside with their pick of Ms. Gonzalez, Ms. Neal or Ms. Durrance.
"Ms. Neal is overwhelmingly chosen," the counselor said, without a hint of envy.
"The program has been very effective at changing behavior in the cafeteria," she added.
So ... covered in a collapsible leaf bag with the bottom cut out; a black strap through the bag's handles to create the bucket handle; six inch "googly eyes" hot glued to the front of the bag; pink feathers with silver glitter for eyelashes -- because all buckets have eyes; lips drawn by the school's art teacher and cut from a piece of paper adorned with red glitter, Ms. Durrance was not just any bucket that Friday.
She wore a blue shirt to represent water, lots of drops, filling the bucket.
While students at Manatee Cove prefer reading to many other activities, the counselor said they would rather read from a computer than from a book.
"We encourage them to use a book. They don't ever see me read on a computer," Ms. Durrance said.
It's a matter of tradition.
"We don't want them to lose touch with the texture of a real book," she said. "I want them to stay connected to the book by turning a real page instead of clicking a button."
The book-pushing counselor wasn't a big reader when she was a kid, but the Twilight series plugged her in.
"I love to see kids get excited about reading because as an adult I realize reading can take you places that you can't afford to go," she said.
All in all, Literacy Week at Manatee Cove created the desired amount of enthusiasm among students.
"We started and ended with a bang," Ms. Durrance said.
"OH! That's what I could be next year ... Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," she said, exclaiming, "Light bulb!"