If a pie in the face will help students read more, then Benner Elementary School Principal Kris Vancas said he’ll do it every time.
Kindergartner Joey Swentosky stood in front of Vancas on the stage in the cafeteria at Benner Elementary School.
With Pittsburgh Steelers pajamas on, Joey planted his feet firmly — the left foot slightly in front of the right — and with a quick lunge, lobbed the plate of whipped cream smack-dab in Vancas’ goatee.
Two other students also got to smack the principal with pie during an end-of-week Read Across America assembly Friday afternoon to celebrate student reading.
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Read Across America is an initiative created by the National Education Association and held annually on March 2 — Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
Benner Elementary celebrated all week with a different theme each day.
The week started with Hat Day in honor of Dr. Seuss’s “The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins,” followed by Sock Day inspired by “Fox in Socks,” School Spirit Day and Dress like a Character Day, and ended on Friday with Pajama Day and a schoolwide assembly and birthday party for Dr. Seuss.
The assembly included teacher tongue-twisters and a read-along with Penn State football player Jack Haffner, who read Dr. Seuss’s “Hop on Pop,” followed by a brief question-and- answer session.
“They were so motivated to read, and do a good job at it,” said second-grade teacher Nicole Harris, who helped organize the event. “We had a theme every day, but really made sure they were excited about it, and were given incentives for their hard work.”
Her class read 97 books.
Students were asked to take home a reading log and chart their reading. In return, each student was given a ticket for each book read, entering them in a raffle for prizes.
They also logged hypothetical miles on a map of the United States in the school’s hallway. They gained “miles” for each book read. If the classes met their mileage goal, a new book would be added to the class library, Harris said.
For second-grade student Cameron Garcia, this week was one of the best weeks of the school year.
“Some kids don’t like to read, but we have fun and it’s my favorite,” he said. “I like to read because I like the stories and it makes me laugh.”
The 8-year-old read 46 books this week that included as many Dr. Seuss books he could read.
“There were also some chapter books I like to read,” he added.
During the assembly, Cameron was also one of a handful of students whose name was picked in the raffle that allowed him to assign a tongue-twister to a teacher.
The students laughed the hardest when fourth-grade teacher Steve Bolich attempted to read the “Sally Sells Seashells by the Seashore” tongue-twister, and replaced every “s” sound with an “sh.”
“They’re a lot harder than you think,” he said.
The school also held a birthday party for Dr. Seuss, sponsored by the Parent Teacher Association, which included pizza, cake and book bingo.