As kids in the Pierson Middle School walked the halls in slippers and pajamas on Friday, it seemed like one big slumber party. But there were no pillow fights, because this party was completely focused on reading.
Barbara McLaughlin, the school’s librarian who also helped organize the event, said this wasn’t the first time the school celebrated the “great read in day,” but this was the first time in five years the school held the event.
The day before, McLaughlin said the library was very busy.
“So many kids were checking out books,” she said.
Kids were encouraged to bring in a book of their choice, and allowed to wear their pj’s to classes. As students lined the halls in their pajamas, some with teddy bears tucked under their arms, they were invited to the library at various times during the day, where four local authors showcased their books, and shared their expertise with them.
The first to speak was author M.E. Kerr, an East Hampton resident. She was delightfully surprised by the good nature and behavior of the children.
“The kids were particularly mannerly and polite and talkative,” she said. “These are wonderful kids – usually you don’t find that at schools.”
Kerr shared two of her stories with the students, “Gentlehands” and “Someone Like Summer.” Further, she said many of the children seemed to be interested in becoming authors and asked her many questions about writing.
“How did you decide what to write?” one student asked. Kerr responded by saying she wrote the stories from personal experiences.
Another author, Sasha Watson, also wrote from personal experience. She told the Pierson students about her book, “Vidalia in Paris,” based on a young girl living in Paris. A student asked her how long it took to write the book. When Watson told the sixth grader it took eight years, she said the kids looked stunned.
“The kids were very energetic and asked lots of questions,” Watson said. This is Watson’s first novel. She is working on a second novel with a character that will be from East Hampton.
Author Tor Seidler also shared two novels on Friday. Barbara Bekermus, the middle school assistant principal, noted that Seidler has been “one of the most important voices in children’s fiction.”
Seidler told the kids about “A Rat’s Tale,” “The Wainscott Weasel,” “Terpin” and “Mean Margaret.” Seidler talked about the first book, and said he was inspired by the rats while living in Manhattan and created different characters based on the rodents.
One sixth grader asked who created the illustrations in the book. Seidler told them the drawings were created by Fred Marcellino, “a renowned illustrator.”
The fourth author, Marc Vun Kannon, a Long Islander, also shared his fantasy fiction stories with the students. “Flame in the Bowl” is the series name and his two stories – “Unbinding the Stone” and “Warrior Made” – are both popular among middle schoolers.
One student asked what the title of this book signified and if it had a religious significance, and the author replied, it indeed did.
“I was really impressed with some of the questions,” said Vun Kannon. “They asked a number of questions and that showed a great deal of intelligence.”
Early that morning, the Teachers Association of Sag Harbor (TASH) brought in bagels for breakfast and Canio’s bookstore was selling books in the common area. The sixth graders also went to the elementary school to read to their first grader buddies in the first part of the day.
Later that afternoon, the kids in sixth through eighth grades were invited to the auditorium where they played a literary version of “Who wants to be a Millionaire” —
the questions focused on books and authors.