You can learn a lot talking to elementary students

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

There’s a great event you don’t want to miss this weekend, sponsored by St. Charles Parish Hospital, as they will hold the St. Charles Business Fest and Health Fair 2008.

The event begins on Friday, March 7, and runs from noon to 5 p.m., then finishes on Saturday, March 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The entire event will be held at Hahnville High School.

There will be a host of free medical and health screenings, including things like checking for blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, breast self-exam and more. There will also be a blood drive on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Women’s Health will be the topic at a discussion from 11 to 12 on Saturday with Dr. Shailaja Raj at 1057 Paul Maillard Rd.

Sounds like a great way to get some help getting healthy, so make sure and stop by.

I was invited again this year to a local school for the annual “Read Across America” event, which is held in conjunction with the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

“Read Across America” is sponsored by the National Educators Association (NEA) as a small way to encourage reading for students, and to students.

Locally, we have had area schools make a big production surrounding Dr. Seuss and his many books, with some unusual faces showing up at the schools to read to students.

I guess that’s where I came in since I probably have a very unusual looking face, and maybe that’s why I always get invited.

OK, so maybe “unusual” meant “different.” Anyway, I digress.

This year I was invited to John L. Ory by Principal Teri Noel, who greeted me with her usual big smile.

I was escorted to my class by a fifth grader named Tanner Lawson, age 11, who seemed like a really nice kid. But then I got to talk with Tanner a little more after I went back to the office following my reading to  Michelle Mondello’s class. More on that later.

When I got back to the office, I suddenly realized I had promised my Rotary Club buddies I would try to get a picture of one of them reading, so I needed Tanner’s help again as we found our way to a different classroom.

By now we had practically become best friends so we started talking about some other things, and I asked him what was something really special about him that most people don’t know.

“Hmmm,” he thought for a while.

I urged him to come up with something good since I was trying to give him a chance to get in the newspaper. Finally he came up with an answer.

“I live and breathe baseball,” he said with a big smile, obviously happy to have come up with an answer.

But I still wasn’t satisfied.

“Come on Tanner, that’s not so great. Heck, any 11-year-old your age might love baseball,” I said.

So after he told me how much he loved the Red Sox, I got him thinking again.

First he came up with something that was his best answer of the day. But that’s when I told him I was going to protect his good name and not print it. Yes, it was something pretty good.

But finally he came up with the winner when he told me that he wore 100 pig tails in his hair on the 100th day of school. He said his sister put them in, and “man, did they hurt.”

So there you have it. My tour guide, Tanner Lawson.

Back to my class in the third grade with Michelle Mondello, I walked in to a sharp looking group of kids, all sitting attentively in their desks and waiting for their “celebrity reader.” Yup, that’s what they called me.

Of course I couldn’t just read the book right away, I had to talk to the kids for a while first and try to have some fun with them.

I asked a simple question. “What is so special about reading?”

I got one quick answer from Chalyn Batiste that was an excellent one. “You can learn from reading.” Very good Chalyn.

Then Joseph Mourin added that “you can learn new words.”

Heather Hebert proved that by telling me she had recently learned the word “tyrannosaurus.”

I read a book about a girl who was the bully of the playground until a new girl came to town, and acted like she wasn’t even afraid of the bully. In fact, she even asked the bully to play with her, and through her act of kindness, changed the bully around completely.

To that, I asked what anyone learned from the book and Kyla Johnson told me that “it’s good to always try to make new friends,” even when the friend might be someone everyone else sees as a bully.

And Alexis Pierre said “you should never be a bully. If you are, you won’t ever make friends.”

So the visit to Ory was a good one again. I enjoy the Dr. Seuss event, and I wonder if I keep getting invited since some folks might notice that I always take pictures for the paper from where I go. So don’t miss the pictures in today’s paper, especially “MY” class with Michelle Mondello’s kids.

Kevin Chiri is Publisher of L’Observateur and can be reached at (985) 652-9545 or at