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A Ragin’ Cajun Party Spices Up Reading at Fisher Mitchell School
A Ragin’ Cajun Party Spices Up Reading at Fisher Mitchell School
Annmarie Harkins
Wednesday, February 05, 2020

For Immediate Release: February 5, 2020
Media Contact: Lindsey Goudreau at 207-443-8330 or lgoudreau@cityofbath.com

Bath, ME (February 5, 2020) – The “Blizzard of Books,” a three-week reading program at Fisher Mitchell School (FMS), is taking on Cajun flavors this year.

Third grade teacher Joan Newkirk-Shute landed on the theme when she realized that one of her student’s grandparents were members of the local Cajun band JimmyJo and the Jumbol’ayahus. She then recalled a book she’d read that would match the Cajun theme: Petite Rouge (a Cajun rendition of Little Red Riding Hood), by Louisiana author Mike Artell.

 “I knew they [Jimmyjo and the Jumbol’ayahs] were fun and would liven up our winter celebration,” she said. “I wanted to connect the theme to a book that third to fifth graders would enjoy. I remembered reading Petite Rouge years ago and thought it would be a good fit. The author was willing to do a virtual visit with the entire school and we were off and running!”

 The virtual session, organized by Library Ed Tech Meg Barker, gave students a chance to interact with Artell, and learn how he became a children’s author/illustrator.

 “He saw an ad to write jokes in the paper,” explained 5th grade student Junuh Hays. “He kept doing it, and then asked them, ‘What if I write pictures for you too?’ That’s how it started.”

 Each student at FMS has a Blizzard of Books 100s chart (modified with developmentally appropriate goals per grade level) which they will try to complete within the three-week program. Readers are incentivized with small rewards as they fill in the chart, but the school is banking on interactive experiences, like Artell’s virtual presentation, to help hook students’ interest.

 If there was any concern about momentum, JimmyJo and the Jumbol’ayahus kept up the beat with their January 30 “Ragin’ Cajun Party” performance. Swinging tunes and simple harmonies transformed the FMS gymnasium into a Cajun dancehall; families who weren’t dancing were making alligator puppets in the craft corner, or enjoying cake decorated like a Louisiana bayou. At the end of the night, several copies of Petite Rouge were raffled away by Principal Ross Berkowitz.

 “I’ve had several past students say that it wasn’t until Blizzard of Books that they really started reading,” Berkowitz shared with the crowd. He hopes that this year’s program inspires even more students to spice up their reading.