Readers get a comic reward


"Check out Mr. Thompson!" came a pupil's cry as Chatsworth Elementary School's assistant principal wrapped a pink feather boa around his neck and rested a cardboard party hat on his head.

The spectacle was a part of Chatsworth's annual festivities to reward and celebrate pupils' success in summertime reading programs.

Assistant Principal James Thompson was on one of two competing teams of six teachers that entertained pupils with several relay races. Children clapped, hooted, jumped, waved and chanted for their favorite team, while the teachers stuffed their faces with lemon meringue pie, balanced eggs on spoons, tried to whistle with their mouths full of cracker crumbs and performed other amusing competitions.

Even teachers who weren't on teams couldn't seem to stop themselves from cheering as the competitions unfolded.

Baltimore County librarian Michelle Stuck kicked off the event by presenting the Reisterstown school with a trophy for the Northwest District's highest participation in the library's summer reading program.

Sneaks the Cat, the library's summer reading mascot, was also on hand to celebrate the Chatsworth victory over the 29 other public schools in the district. This is the third year out of the last four that Chatsworth has received the honor.

Thompson, the boa-clad assistant principal, attributes the school's success to the popularity of the award festivities. "We take it over the top a little bit. We make it important. All we want is to get kids to read," he said.

Yesterday's celebration recognized the tribute from the library, and also rewarded pupils who participated in any other summer reading program.

According to Nancy Braverman, the school librarian, more than 75 percent of Chatsworth's pupils took part in programs this summer.

Braverman organizes the annual event at the beginning of each school year to entice pupils to read during the summer break.

Previous years' activities included Braverman bathing a pig in buttermilk, Braverman and Thompson sitting in dunk tanks, and teachers -- dressed in gowns and tuxedos -- dining on candy bugs.

Though the Baltimore County Public Library is host of presentations in all five of the county's school districts, Stuck said that the gala at Chatsworth is one of the most spirited.

"It serves as an incentive. The students all love seeing their teachers do silly things," said Stuck.

As for Thompson, his efforts were not in vain. His team toppled the opposition in a tie-breaking event. In the end, though, it's all about getting the kids to read, Thompson said.

"Over the past couple of years we've done our little display, and year after year, more kids are reading [over the summer], and that's the point," he said.

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