By B.C. Manion
It wasn’t exactly a marauding band of pirates looting the place and capturing hostages.
Indeed, these pirates smiled broadly as they stormed the campus of John Long Middle.
The invasion was just one in a series of events in the school’s annual quest to create a buzz about reading.
Last week, pirates from the Krewe of Shamrock, the Krewe of Grace O’Malley, and other Gasparilla krewes invaded the campus, accompanied by John Long teachers and staff wearing bandanas, brandishing nose rings and wearing swashbuckling costumes.
Principal Beth Brown, known that day as Bootlegger Bossy Brown, amped up the crowd.
So did Richard Hellbaum, a science teacher and Sharon Cypriano, who teaches language arts.
Gene Monroe and Diane Jimenez, of the Krewe of Shamrock, needed no instruction or encouragement. They’re pirates. They knew what to do.
Dorrit Morgan, a member of the Krewe of Grace O’Malley, did, too.
As they and other pirates streamed across campus, kids pointed and laughed.
“You all have lost your dignity,” one student teased, as costumed teachers passed by.
Girls swooned when they saw Monroe dressed in a kilt, with a sword sheathed in his scabbard.
And, boy and girls went wild in the gym, when pirates accompanied by Pasco School Board Chairwoman Joanne Hurley tossed beads to the crowd.
Kids and adults were obviously having fun.
Twelve-year-old Jailine Bonillo got a kick out of seeing the teachers in costumes, especially her science teacher.
“You don’t really see your average teacher doing something crazy like that,” agreed 13-year-old Arden Ratmiroff.
“It was fun. We got to get books and beads and everything,” said eighth-grader Nicole Nocerino.
Besides giving out more than 1,700 books, the pirates were there to help the school celebrate its official designation as a BookCrossing Zone.
The program, which likens itself to a World Library, allows readers to label a book with an ID number and to track the book’s travels, after it leaves their hands.
The concept is this: After someone has labeled the book with an ID number, readers read the book and have the option of recording their thoughts about it on a website.
Then they leave the book somewhere, where someone else can pick it up.
Over time, theoretically, the book will pass through various readers’ hands, and readers will be able to track where the book has gone and read what others think about it.
The website, www.bookcrossing.com also allows book lovers to hunt for books around their neighborhood or around the world by using its “Go Hunting” pages. Reader can chat in forums about books. They can connect with members and go to conferences all over the globe.
Arden is clearly impressed by the concept.
“You get a book and you read it. Instead of just leaving it on your bookshelf to just do nothing for a long time, you just send it out and whoever wants it can get it,” she said.
As an avid reader, 12-year-old Sebastian Castillo-Sanchez loves the idea. Reading has so much to offer, he said, noting that when he reads he encounters new ideas and expands his vocabulary, too.
Besides enjoying the festivities, Brown took a moment to give credit to the committee who put together the literacy events. They are Rory McLeod, Ryan Fisher, Ron Bruno, Theresa Hewitt, Toni Lazzaro, Suzanne Kleim and Marti di Primo.
It took months to plan and organize the events, Brown said, which included a family night at Barnes & Noble at The Shops at Wiregrass, a book swap for students handled by the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, the pirate invasion and the launch of its BookCrossing Zone.
The committee worked hard, Brown said. They bounced ideas around and they enlisted the help of others.
All of the work had a single goal: To make reading more exciting for students, Brown said.
The committee’s work, the principal said, represented “synergy at its finest.”
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