At our first back to school meeting in mid-September, teachers began preparing parents for Halloween. Their reason was to warn us of a new dimension to the popular school parade and party.
“We would like to correlate our traditional Halloween parade with a program objective for our school in reading and literature,” the principal suggested. “This idea is to use this event to help us raise pupil awareness of literature, and to encourage our students to read more books.”
For this year’s parade the pupil will select a character from a book of their choice as a costume in the parade. Teachers will help by providing tags with the name of the character, title, and author of the book, to be worn by parade participants.
How do 5 through 12-year old children react to having a special theme on a holiday ordinarily free of adult advice? After talking to over two dozen students, this writer found an enthusiastic response. Of course there is always the one who objects “I already planned to be a rock singer.”
Deciding is the hard part. Some children are thinking back on stories they’ve read and seeking out library books for illustrations of their favorite character such as Heidi or the evil witch from “The Wizard of Oz.”
Other children want to dress as a particular animal, so they’ve stopped by the school library for any stories including their four-legged friends. Biographies are giving inspiration to others.
Our fourth grader decided to portray the Wizard of Menlo Park, Thomas A. Edison, by wearing a white lab coat and pulling a wagon filled with a few of his major inventions. Perhaps we will see a few Washingtons, Lincolns, and Susan B. Anthonys.
The staff will not be uninvolved observers on Oct. 31. Teachers, individually or in small groups, are also researching their costumes. The principal says that he’s having a hard time deciding. While the Pied Piper of Hamelin is a distinct possibility, some might think Dracula would be more in character, he jests.
The spirit of Halloween will definitely not be dampened by this new idea. Even the children with hearts set on being a ghost or goblin are likely to find them in some book.
“When the first frost is on the pumpkin” and the leaves are turning brown, parents, friends, and neighbors will gather to watch a host of 400 storybook characters come alive and march to the tunes of John Philip Sousa. I can’t wait!