KINGSBURG – What do pancakes, wild animals, a Viking, a president, home-schooled character and Olympic symbols have in common with literacy? If you were present during the halftime of the Kingsburg High varsity football game against Dinuba High Oct. 18, you’d know!

These were the mascots taking part in a gunny sack race as part of the community-wide effort to promote reading. It's all part of this year’s Kingsburg Reads One Book program centered on the children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web.”

Kingsburg Elementary School District Assistant Superintendent Melanie Sembritzki is coordinating the reading and community events based on the book. That night’s sack race mimicks activities from the story.

“It’s to get the kids excited about reading and build a culture of literacy at home,” she said of the effort. “Nowadays, kids do so many other things that they don’t enjoy reading like they used to. So that’s really what we’re trying to do.”

Kingsburg Reads One Book started the previous year with a community read of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Just as in that first year, there will be a scavenger hunt, student art displays, library activities and eventually a culminating event with a free screening of a movie adaptation of the book at the KHS Little Theater.

Corrine Cano, a reading intervention paraprofessional at Washington Elementary, said her children are reading the book and have already picked their favorite characters. It’s one of her favorite books, too, as she even dressed as a web spelling out ‘terrific’ for her school’s Book Character day last year.

“I think [‘Charlotte’s Web’] teaches kids about kindness. I still love to read it. I’m an adult and I still own ‘Charlotte’s Web.’”

Cano was helping spectators pick their favorite mascot for the race that night at the Kingsburg High Stadium.

Andy Lopez was voting with his children, Niko, Kristiana and Nolan. They picked Kingsburg High’s Viking to win. The children are reading “Charlotte’s Web” at their schools and Niko, a Reagan Elementary student, said his favorite character is Wilbur the pig.

“The pig is trying to escape.”

Lopez said his children already like to read, but this community-wide effort encourages them to branch out and read more challenging books.

“It’s very encouraging. They love to read anyways, but this is something kind of new because all they read is ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid.’”

Each school is having different activities based on the book.

At Rafer Johnson, Terri Wilson’s arts students are creating art projects where they paint and draw pictures of Kingsburg and then weave webs out of yarn spelling out words, just as Charlotte the spider did to save her friend, Wilbur, in the book.

Reagan Elementary hosted a country fair carnival where games and live animals were brought in.

“All the animals had their own personalities, just like the characters in the book so it was fun to see that,” Sembritzki said. “It’s that whole theme of friendship, community and looking out for each other. There’s a message of friendship throughout the whole book and community spirit. It reminds us of Kingsburg.”

For the gunny sack race, mascots from local schools, civic groups and special guest Fuego The Fox from the Fresno FC professional men’s soccer team took part. They said aside from limbering up, eating a good meal, they prepared by making it a habit to read every day.

Fuego’s helper - Hannah Becker - said his favorite books remind him of his own childhood in the natural forest.

“Fuego said he liked the ‘Frog and Toad’ series. It something from Fuego’s childhood too and he likes to reminisce,” Becker said.

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Central Valley Homeschool Principal Misti Jennings came dressed as Homeschool Girl.

“I had a good meal and now I’m ready to get my gunny sack on,” she said just before the race. Their school is using “Charlotte’s Web” to come up with engineering and science projects such as creating pig sties and studying arachnids.

“I think it’s fabulous. My site is so into this at all the grades and with all the families. They’ve studied about how baby spiders will parachute down so there’s engineering activities to go along with it. They’re loving it. It’s cross-curricular.”

Rafer Johnson Junior High Principal Bobby Rodriguez and Learning Director Erin Pasillas were decked out as Torchy and the Rings.

“It’s all about strategy,” Rodriguez said. “And teamwork,” Pasillas added. “We’re just going to go for the gold, like true Olympians.”

“If this gets more kids to read by us being silly, then it’s all worth it,” Rodriguez added.

Substitute teacher Steven Garza was dressed as the Washington Patriot Bear. He stretched as much as he could and did all his homework before coming to the event to prepare.

“It’s great for everyone, especially the kids,” he said of the ‘One Book’ program.

KHS’ Odin the Viking said even explorers such as him need to read.

“Just keep on reading. Reading’s good and will get you far in life.”

Rotary Club’s Cooking with Courtney Smith took part in the race and said her strategy was to simply try not to trip. She wound up tripping anyway, but said it was all for a good cause. Cookbooks are not even her favorite reading materials, but she does recall reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in high school.

“I loved that book. You end up appreciating books like that more as you get older. It might seem boring when you’re a kid, but when you get older, it just opens up.”

Bonnie Buttertop - aka Holly Jones - with Kingsburg Kiwanis said since their organization is known for sponsoring Swedish pancake fundraisers, the pancake costume was perfect to represent their civic club.

“I don’t know why I said, ‘yes’ but here I am. I’m probably the oldest person here.”

Jones does love a good cookbook, but her favorite reads are murder mysterious, she said.

“I love ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ Her web saved Wilbur. Everybody has something they can do and a unique talent to offer.”

The mascot racers readied on the 40-yard marker, and then furiously hopped along to the finish line. Odin exploded out front to take a serious lead, but then Swimmy the Shark dove over the finish line at just the right moment to swim into first place.

Swimmy credited all her reading with helping her claim the gunny sack victory.

“Read, find your friends and family and find books you enjoy to keep reading.”

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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