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“Read Across America” lives up to its name at Mabel PDF Print
Written by Marshall Ashcraft   
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 09:54

Fourth and fifth graders at Mabel Elementary School were read to in Nome, Alaska on Monday and it wasn’t even a field trip. In fact, they just walked to the school media center and used a Skype connection to see and hear the book “Whale Snow” being read to them in Nome by Wilkes County native and ASU graduate Abby Huggins.  The reading by Huggins was part of Mabel’s participation in Read Across America, an annual event to promote and celebrate reading nationwide.  The event became known as “Read (and Skype) Across America” at Mabel this year when Technology Facilitator Shannon Carroll, Media Specialist Jo Sorrell, and other faculty developed the idea of using school technology to connect students with readers across the country.  To prepare for the event, Carroll invited teachers to recommend possible readers located outside of our area.  A teacher at Blowing Rock School suggested Abby Huggins in Nome and Huggins agreed to participate as a reader for Mabel students.
The use of Skype helped to enrich the educational value of Read Across America at Mabel through much more than just technology.  The integration of reading, geography, and instructional technology proved effective in stimulating student engagement and enhancing student learning.  This was especially evident in the question and answer session that followed the reading of “Whale Snow”, when students asked Huggins a wide range of questions about the culture, climate, and animals of Alaska. 

From their questions, students learned that the amount of daylight in Nome ranged from about 4 hours on the shortest day in December to about 20 hours on the longest day in June, that many of the restaurants served sushi, and that whale hunting is still practiced but is done to help maintain the spirit and culture of the community, not just for food.  They also learned that musk oxen have a shaggy coat that is sometimes shed in clumps that people can use for knitting and that “Whale Snow” was written in both English and Inupiaq, an Alaskan native language that people are working to preserve. 
Students were also curious about the basics of everyday life in Alaska.  Seeing a fan in the room where Huggins read, one student asked “why do you need a fan if you’re in Alaska?” Huggins explained that it could be fairly warm in Alaska during the summer and that her heated building could feel too warm sometimes even in winter.

Nome was just one of the sites where volunteers in distant places read to Mabel students via Skype.  Readers were also located in several parts of North Carolina, in Sterling, Alaska, and in the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Kansas, Georgia, and New York. 
Originated by the National Education Association in 1998, Read Across America has since gained the support and participation of dozens of other organizations and millions of students, teachers, and parents.  In schools, the celebration is typically spread over a week anchored by the March 2 birthday of the famed children’s author known as “Dr. Seuss.”
Mabel Elementary School is one of eight schools for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students in the Watauga County Schools system.  Mabel has a current enrollment of 197 pupils and is designated a “School of Distinction” on the state’s ABC’s school accountability system. 


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