In first- and second-grade classrooms across Bridgeport today, students experienced the joy of reading by watching a puppet show, hearing from a children’s author, and choosing a book of their very own to take home. The Connecticut Education Foundation’s virtual Read Across Connecticut celebration is the biggest literacy event in the state, providing a virtual read-aloud puppet show with book character puppets bringing to life The Someone New, by Jill Twiss.
More than 3,200 students in 29 schools in Bridgeport were given the opportunity to select a new, free book of their choice to take home, along with bookmarks, reading certificates, word searches, and a flyer for parents with tips on engaging children in reading. The materials are also online and available to educators and students across the state (like those in New London, pictured above) at cea.org/read-across-connecticut.
“This year, the pandemic forced us to think outside the box to bring the fun and excitement of reading to children,” said CEF President and CEA Vice President Tom Nicholas. “While Bridgeport students were today’s audience and the recipients of free books, the beauty of this program is that it is available to students in every school district across the state. Educators, students, and parents can access our free online resources any time, witness the magic of a story read by puppets, watch a Q&A session with author Jill Twiss, and download some great literacy activities and resources.”
“We appreciate CEF for recognizing the great need in Bridgeport schools and coming through with this virtual celebration of diversity and reading,” said Bridgeport Education Association President and bilingual teacher Ana Batista. “Many of our students don’t have a lot of their own books and don’t see themselves in the books they have, so these free books featuring diverse characters, and often children of color, are a wonderful way of helping students connect with stories and enhance their reading skills.”
Titles students could choose among included
- The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi
- Frog and Toad Are Friends, by Arnold Lobel
- Mrs. Katz and Tush, by Patricia Polacco
- Yasmine the Friend, by Saadia Faruqi
- EllRay Jakes Stands Tall, by Sally Warner
- Keena Ford and the Second-Grade Mix-Up, by Melissa Thomson
- Tacky the Penguin, by Lynn Munsinger
CEF, the nonprofit arm of the Connecticut Education Association, sponsored the event with partners iHeartRadio, Dalio Philanthropies, and the National Education Association. Jill Twiss’s publisher, HarperCollins, donated 100 copies of The Someone New so that all Bridgeport first- and second-grade classroom libraries have a copy. Abrahams Books donated 500 copies of Our Little Kitchen, by Jillian Tamaki, and Mercer Mayer donated 200 copies of his books. The generosity of the partners and book donations ensured that every student received a book to take home.
CEF worked with graduates of the University of Connecticut Puppet Arts Program and Wonderspark Puppets to bring the characters in The Someone New to life in a video read-aloud and Q&A with puppets and the book’s author discussing the importance of differences, inclusivity, and friendship.
“We are grateful to Jill Twiss for participating in this project and working with us to provide a valuable tool that teaches about diversity and reinforces an appreciation of reading that children will carry with them for the rest of their lives,” said Nicholas.
“I am so thrilled for The Someone New to be part of Read Across Connecticut Day,” said author Jill Twiss. “I loved hearing books read aloud as a kid, and it means so much to me to have my own book involved in this project.”