The young children at Eagleview Elementary in Columbia were eager to listen as the man in lederhosen and a Bavarian-style hat read to them on Thursday afternoon.
“Spanish!” a group of them shouted excitedly to his question about which language they might hear.
Phil Leyerer, a German native and a graduate student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville studying sports psychology, read “The Big Pumpkin” to the pre-kindergarten through first-grade students as part of the school’s International Literacy Day. He peppered the book with German words for witch, pumpkin and vampire as he read about a hexe’s wish for a kurbis pie. He had earlier said it was an easy-to-follow book so it would be easy to switch the nouns.
6,297 Number of books that Eagleview Elementary students read in two weeks
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Assistant Principal April Becherer welcomed Leyerer and another SIUE student Magdalena Sustere to the school to demonstrate the importance of reading the world over.
Sustere, dressed in traditional Latvian costume and holding her cello, told the students that as she was learning to read words, she was also learning to read music. On Thursday, she used the cello to “read” Latvian folk songs to the assembly.
“They’re almost ready to go home, and they’re engaged like it’s 9 a.m.,” said Gina Segobiano, superintendent at Columbia School District.
The official International Literacy Day was on Sept. 8, but Becherer said that was too soon to the start of the year for the school to give it the attention teachers wanted. Eagleview has had literacy events all week, including reading contests and having community members other than teachers reading to the students, including police officers and firefighters.
Segobiano said the international focus also helped increase diversity and cultural awareness, and the guest readers helped the students see adults in different careers — other than their teachers — reading.
Becherer also announced the classroom winners of the school’s reading contest. The challenge was for each kindergarten and first-grade student to read 25 books in two weeks. The entire school read 6,297 books.