– by David Schleck
More than 4,700 VBCPS fifth graders are reading “EllRay Jakes is Magic!” this month for All District Reads, which puts a free book into the hands of students and encourages them to read aloud and discuss the story with their families, classmates and community.
All District Reads is a nonprofit that partners with parents, schools and local communities to help bridge the literacy gap among elementary school students. VBCPS, in its inaugural year with the program, chose the “EllRay Jakes” book by Sally Warner because of its lively plotline about a lovable third grader whose family, friends and teachers help him overcome anxiety leading up to a school talent show.
New Castle Elementary kicked off National Reading Month with a performance by magician Nathan Rhodes. Just like the character EllRay Jakes, Rhodes learned magic tricks at a young age. He shared with New Castle students that he was shy when he was growing up.
“Magic helped me make friends,” Rhodes said. “It helped me get rid of my stage fright and meet new people.”
Students and teachers joined Rhodes on stage for several tricks. He made a cup of water disappear just before it doused a student, and he saved a teacher’s smartphone from being crushed by a hammer. The audience oohed and aahed after each trick, and there was plenty of applause when principal Heather Quinn announced that volunteers would be handing out free copies of “EllRay Jakes” to all the fifth graders.
All 55 elementary schools had fun with the book, including a “Dress Like A Magician Day” held at Ocean Lakes Elementary. The Noblemen are also volunteering at concluding events at several elementary schools, which include asking students trivia questions and giving away free books.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools hopes to expand All District Reads to all elementary grade levels next school year. The Noblemen of Virginia Beach and The Blocker Foundation generously provided funding for the books and program materials.
A video playlist of Dr. Spence and several local celebrities reading “EllRay Jakes” is available on the VB Schools YouTube channel.
“Reading not only develops the mind, it opens up worlds of opportunity for children and adults alike,” said Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence. “VBCPS encourages families and community members to explore their shared love of books, writers and storytelling.”