BANGOR, Maine — About 100 second- and third-graders at Vine Street School sat cross-legged on the gymnasium floor Friday, listening intently to excerpts from E.B. White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan.”
Maine’s first lady Karen Baldacci, a former teacher at the Bangor elementary school, read short passages from the popular children’s book, but she stopped in sections that left the pupils wanting more.
“You’ll have to read the whole thing to find out the ending,” she said.
With that, Baldacci issued a summer reading challenge to the 7- and 8-year-olds to read four books before they return to school in the fall. To kick-start the challenge, the governor’s wife brought more than 300 books donated from Scholastic, a nationwide organization that promotes reading.
“Do you guys know what the summer slide is?” Baldacci said before explaining the importance of keeping reading skills fresh over the summer months. “Imagine if [Boston Red Sox second baseman] Dustin Pedroia didn’t practice. Would he be as good? It’s the same with reading.”
Vine Street School Principal Tim McCloskey said each pupil would be given a stash of three books that tie directly to his or her interests and reading level. For the fourth book, children were encouraged to visit the Bangor Public Library or borrow from friends.
Before starting in with “The Trumpet of the Swan,” Baldacci talked about her love of E.B. White and professed that she had read the book many times before.
“So why would I want to read it again?” she asked the inquisitive, fidgety crowd.
One young boy raised his hand.
“Because it’s so good, you just want to read it over and over again,” he said.
A young girl close by raised her hand.
“And, if you read it a second time, you might see things you didn’t see the first time,” she said.
“Oh, I love those answers,” Baldacci replied.
The summer reading challenge has been sponsored by Scholastic for many years and second- and third-graders from all over the country participate. McCloskey said any opportunity to keep the kids learning over the summer is a no-brainer.
“If the books are fun and appealing to them, it makes it that much easier,” he said.