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Porterville College athletes take on Seuss
“And that is a story that no one can beat, When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street...”
The above words, found in the venerable Dr. Seuss’ first published book, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street,” were read to Kelly Turri’s first grade class on Tuesday morning in observance of Read Across America Day at Vandalia Elementary School.
When Porterville College men’s basketball guard Anthony “Mikey” Hidalgo first heard the idea that several of his peers would be reading in children’s classes, he jumped for the chance.
“I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m coming to this,’” said Hidalgo, who grew up an avid fan of Dr. Seuss. “I’d always wear that (“Cat in the Hat”) hat to school and everything.”
For Hidalgo, who has younger siblings, reading “Mulberry Street” to Turri’s kids was a breeze.
“It was really cool,” he said. “The kids were laughing and they got into it.”
Turri, who admitted that her “kids get tired of hearing me all the time,” was impressed.
“Mikey was very good,” she said. “I enjoyed it because I got to watch my kids from a different angle enjoy somebody else reading to them. I wish we had more time to make reading and learning more fun.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Vandalia reading specialist Samantha Bernard, who planned the idea of the Pirates’ athletes reading aloud to children with PC’s dean of academic affairs, Antonia Ecung.
“Every year I do a (reading) event and I thought it’d be a great idea to get the athletes involved,” Bernard said. “We need to get our community involved in educating our students.”
Turri and Bernard worked on a grant asking Wal-Mart for a collection of Dr. Seuss books for the school’s first-graders.
“I use Dr. Seuss a lot,” Turri said. “His books are perfect for first-graders. One of the first books a kid can read is ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’”
That was the favorite of PC women’s basketball player Crystal Bueno growing up in Earlimart.
“I wanted to read ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ but I read ‘Horton Hears a Who’ instead,” Bueno said. “I practiced all weekend and I asked, ‘Mom, can you read me bedtime stories?’”
The sophomore said she was nervous at first but calmed down when she realized the class was eating it up.
“They’d start laughing at some of the funny parts in the book,” Bueno said. “I was surprised they were listening.”
Ten-year-old Jayden Behill, a member of Vandalia’s student body council, is hoping that PC’s involvement won’t be just a one-time thing.
“It was pretty cool,” said the fifth-grader, also a Dr Seuss fan. “I think Mikey did good. My mom used to read a lot of those to me.”
With Porterville College just across the street, Bernard felt the elementary school could certainly tap more frequently into the resources available — and PC’s athletes were more than willing to step up.
“Kids need a good role model,” Bernard said. “They really enjoy it when others in the community show that they care. I can see it in their eyes. They were even hugging one of the athletes.”
Bueno is president of the college’s Student Athletic Advisory Council that helps organize off-the-court events such as Tuesday’s read-along. Other PC athletes in attendance included men’s basketball forward Karrmell “Freeway” Stone and women’s volleyball player Katrina Goulbourne.
“It makes me feel good to help other people,” she said. “I’d never read a book to a class before. It was a lot of fun.”
Hidalgo, the council’s vice president, said that when it comes to role models, kids can’t get enough these days.
“Especially nowadays, how it is,” the freshman said. “I try to tell them to keep doing good in school. It’s always good to have somebody you can look up to.”
Hidalgo said the entire read-along took “maybe five, 10 minutes.” Both he and Bueno said they hope to get the college involved in more reading events to help improve children’s reading skills, if not to simply provide an extra positive role model.
And that’s a story that can’t be beat.