Aliyah Hill and Peyton Taylor are both dressed as Fancy Nancy, their favorite book character in “Fancy Nancy: Bonjour Butterfly.” Hill is wearing a costume with sparkly butterfly wings, a pink tutu, and a tiara. Taylor is wearing shiny beads and a sparkly red tutu.
The two girls from Melanie Marino’s second grade class at Southside Elementary in Palestine are not at a costume party; they’re at school, where everyone is dressed as storybook characters — even teachers, office staff, and school leaders. Taylor said she likes the character Fancy Nancy because “she’s fancy.”
However, getting kids to enjoy reading is serious business.
Dressed as a farmer from the picture book “Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type,” Principal Grace Mancilla said the dress-up day motivates kids to read. Three administrators dressed as farmers and all office staff dressed as cows.
Almost all of Southside’s 350 students participated. Some who brought their books to school held them proudly to show the connection.
Jacqui Ramirez, from Jessica Jenkins’s third grade class, also wore a tiara, but dressed all in black — like the heroine in her book, “The Princess in Black.”
“She’s in black and she also fights monsters,” said Ramirez, showing the book’s illustrations as she eagerly tells the story of the brave princess.
Steel Tunstall wore a skeleton costume like a character in “The Haunted Ghoul Bus.” McKinley Ryla dressed as Tiger Lily, a character from “Peter Pan and Wendy.”
Holding a sparkly book titled “Monster Mash,” Ariyah Vega said she decided to dress up like a character from that book and enjoyed hearing a song by the same name. She also said she likes to read.
“Reading inspires me to do new things and I like to learn things,” she said.
This year’s character dress-up day included a Drive and Go Read Fall Festival. Families returned to the school in the evening, where each child received a free book and candy. Students completed a review of their new books as Friday’s at-home learning activity.
Southside’s Texas Texas After School Centers program and the Palestine Independent School District purchased the books, while Chartwells, the district’s food service program, donated candy for the drive-in event.
Mancilla said the event offered an opportunity to promote literacy by increasing the number of books in the home.
“Our goal is to have kids reading on grade level by the time they leave Southside,” she said.