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Learning how to love reading

Reporter Teri Cadeau, dressed up as Carmen Sandiego, reads "If You Take a Mouse to School" to a group of kindergarteners at Lowell Elementary. (Photo by Steph Gottschald)

I really like to dress up.

Give me the chance to wear something unusual and a fun hat and I will be there.

So when I heard about the Harvest of Literature event at Lowell Elementary, the first thing I asked was, "How do I sign up?"

Harvest of Literature is an annual event at Lowell which includes about 40 volunteers and parents from the Duluth community. They attend dressed as their favorite book character and read a story. As a Reading Corps volunteer, I spend about an hour a week at Lowell working with students on their reading skills. But working one-on-one with the same students every week was one thing. Keeping an entire classroom's attention the day before Halloween was quite another.

First, I had to decide what to wear. I had two options: I could pull out my graduation robe and be an unknown Hogwarts student, or I could wear my Carmen Sandiego costume from last year. I went with the later option, though it did have two problems: One, Carmen Sandiego is more of a TV and video game character, even though books about her adventures do exist. Two, kids today do not know who Carmen Sandiego is. (She's more from my generation of the 1990s). But it did involve wearing an awesome hat, so I went for it.

My first class was the ever-difficult-to-please fifth-graders. I chose the book "Cinderella's Rat" by Susan Meddaugh. I hoped at least one student would like Cinderella.

"Hello everyone, I'm Teri Cadeau. I'm going to be reading 'Cinderella's Rat' today," I said.

"Yes! I love Cinderella!" exclaimed one boy in the front. Thank goodness, I thought.

As predicted, not all of the fifth-graders were as charmed by the story of Cinderella's whiskery friend. But they were kind enough to listen and answer my questions at the end.

As soon as I finished with the fifth-graders, I excitedly dashed off to a second-grade classroom. Last year I worked with first graders and I knew there was a pretty good chance a few of them would be in this class. Sure enough, I spotted four familiar faces in the group.

This time, I was a little more warmed up as I read "The Pigeon Needs a Bath" by Mo Willems. I think this book entertained me as much as the children. It's about a sassy pigeon who is dead-set against taking a bath. Eventually the pigeon gives in, gets in the bath and (spoiler alert!) decides he doesn't want to get out. The kids laughed and so did I. When I finished, one of the boys I read with last year gave me a high five.

I ended my time at the Harvest by reading a classic, "If You Take a Mouse to School" by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond, to a group of very enthusiastic kindergarteners.

As I walked to work later that morning, I felt an extra bit of pep in my step. Something about being around those kids, seeing them so excited about books and Halloween, gave me great joy.

That, and I was still wearing my big red Carmen Sandiego hat.

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Duluth Budgeteer News.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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