Mayor’s Book Club challenges students to read 1,000 books

Eatontown and Hazlet schools among those selected to participate in reading initiative
Staff Writer - Atlanticville

Reveiving the AwardEatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo (l-r) is presented with a plaque by Monmouth University President Paul G. Gaffney II and William Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, at the kickoff of the Mayor’s Book Club program on Feb 4. PHOTO COURTESY OF MONMOUTH UNIVERSITYWEST LONG BRANCH

— A select group of first-grade students from six municipalities in Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties are being challenged to read 1,000 books by April 30 as part of a statewide initiative to promote reading.

Two classes each from schools in Eatontown, Hazlet, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, Brick and Point Pleasant have been selected to participate in the 2013 New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) Mayor’s Book Club.

“The purpose is to improve quality of life and really address what is a national issue, to improve literacy skills for our youth,” William Dressel, executive director of the NJLM, said at the Mayor’s Book Club Kickoff on Feb. 4 at Monmouth University.

“It started about four years ago based on the premise that the mayor is a role model and is the focal point of each community, and we thought that we would focus on literacy in the elementary grade levels.”

As part of the initiative, students are asked to read a minimum of eight books each. The school to reach 1,000 books by the end of April will win $1,000.

Participating schools are the Margaret L. Vetter School in Eatontown, Middle Road School in Hazlet, James A. McDivitt Elementary School in Old Bridge, James J. Flynn School in Perth Amboy, Drum Point Elementary School in Brick, and Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School in Point Pleasant.

The race officially began Feb. 1 with a celebratory kickoff event that included a visit from the mayors who read to the students.

“I emphasized to the kids that reading is very important. If you want to escape, that is the way to do it, read,” Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo said, recalling the first book he read.

“I remember the first book that I read was about Kit Carson. It was about the Old West and it was the biography of Carson. I was mesmerized by the life of Kit Carson back then.

“Reading is something that is dear to me, so when I had an opportunity to be a part of this program with the League of Municipalities, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Tarantolo added that he is optimistic that the Vetter School will succeed in reaching the 1,000-book goal.

“I look forward to working with Vetter School on this project, and I think we are going to hit our bogie. In fact, to entice the kids I threw in a pizza party.”

Middle Road first-grade teacher Jaime Scarfi shared her secret to interest her students.

“We do a lot of reading in class. We have a time where they have to drop everything and read. They also take books home every night,” Scarfi said.

Principal Loretta Zimmer added that mystery guest readers are coming to read to the students to promote the importance of reading.

“In the younger grades you learn to read, but in the upper grades you read to learn, so it’s an important skill,” Zimmer said.

According to Dressel, each year the NJLM partners with a local college or university that collaborates with local mayors and elementary schools to establish a learning environment that promotes reading.

This year NJLM is partnering with Monmouth University School of Education faculty, administrators and undergraduate teacher education candidates.

Lynn Romeo, dean of the School of Education, said the administration is excited to work with the schools and more importantly the students.

“I have been to four kickoff events in four of the six schools, and I have to tell you that the first-graders are all excited and raring to go,” Romeo said. “They are going to read those 1,000 books. They never even dwelled on the number eight,” the minimum number of books each pupil must read.