By Mary Thurwachter
Never let it be said that Lantana Mayor David Stewart doesn’t enjoy a good challenge — especially when it comes to his town and reading to children. So when the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County invited the public to participate in Jumpstart’s 2015 Read for the Record on Oct. 22, Stewart and his team of volunteers rallied.
The national celebration involves thousands of adults reading a nationally selected book on a single day each year to the most children ever.
The Literacy Coalition coordinated more than 500 adults to volunteer and “Read for the Record” to more than 12,000 children in Palm Beach County. Mayors, like Stewart and Lake Worth’s Pam Triolo, and other public officials contributed to the record-breaking events.
The Lantana readers — including Stewart, Town Manager Deborah Manzo, Town Clerk Crystal Gibson, members of the local Kiwanis Club and students from Santaluces High School (who got community service hours credit for their efforts) — met for instructions and assignments.
“You’ve got to know the book by heart,” said Stewart, “and you’ve got to get down on the floor with the kids.”
The chosen book, Not Norman: A Goldfish Story, by Kelly Bennett, is a lighthearted tale of a little boy who finds a friend in an unexpected place.
Manzo, who was on vacation at the time but came to read anyway, even brought in a goldfish with bowl and gave it to one of the schools.
The team visited every elementary school and day care center in the town and read to 610 students in the 5- to 6-year age group. That number earned the town top honors in the Literacy Coalition’s small municipalities (20,000 or under) competition.
“Lantana has been winning for years,” Stewart said, “but last year Palm Springs out-read us.” This year, Palm Springs, due to population growth, found itself in the large city category.
“They (Palm Springs volunteers) made me a goldfish hat,” Stewart said. He proudly modeled the hat, made of pink construction paper, at the Dec. 14 council meeting.
The prize for Lantana was a large basket of children’s books, which will be given to either the town library or to Lantana Elementary School’s Reading Oasis, a partnership between a book publisher (Scholastic) and the local Kiwanis Club.
By Mary Thurwachter