Kindergarteners at Weehawken’s Webster School were ready to rhyme two weeks ago when they held a release party for a book of nursery rhymes they produced for an annual project.
The students of teacher Rhondi Banta create a book each year. Last year’s theme was “The ABC’s of Weehawken.” This year, the youngsters were charged with illustrating well-known nursery rhymes.
Some of the rhymes in the volume were very familiar, like “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring,” which was illustrated by kindergartener Matias Mazzeo. Others were less so, like “Five Speckled Frogs,” illustrated by D.J. Pinto.
“Learning nursing rhymes are an essential part of learning how to read.” – Rhondi Banta
Mayor stops in
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner had a special invitation to the event. Kindergartner Rhys Wylie made a request to Banta for the mayor’s presence.
When asked why he wanted the mayor there, Rhys responded that it was because he wanted to make sure the mayor got his own copy of the book.
Little did Rhys know that Turner already has quite of a collection of books from Banta’s former kindergarten classes over the past few years. Banta, a Jersey City resident who has been teaching at Webster for eight years, said she first began doing the project with her students in 2005.
Last year’s book was actually included in the town’s time capsule as part of the 150th anniversary celebration.
Banta said that not only can the book it be a special memento, but also a great learning tool for the kids.
Although not all the students can read alone yet, Banta said that because many of the rhymes are songs the students learned as part of their reading series, they can sing along and connect the pictures with the words in print.
“We had a lot of fun this year,” said Banta. “Learning nursing rhymes are an essential part of learning how to read.”
The students began work on the project at the end of April. They examined published books to understand the various components, like the introduction page and author biography page.
Each student has their own “author’s bio” in their individual version of the book.
After each student created a drawing to go with the rhyme selected for them, the pictures were copied and glued by hand into a book by Banta.
Special party guests
Also in attendance was Charles Walters, the dedicated “reader” for the school. Born in Weehawken, Walters, a former actor, has been working in the school for 10 years coming to classes to read to the students.
“These kids are great,” he said.
Principal Anthony Colasurdo also came by.
“I look forward to this every year,” said Colasurdo. “You can see how proud they are.”
Webster has five kindergarten classes, but they don’t all engage in the same projects. Colasurdo said he encourages every teacher to take the reins of creativity.
One example is the Principal’s Challenge – when over a two week span, every class and grade participates in a group activity and also creates a project related to one common subject. This year, it’s anatomy.
As a reward for their participation in the anatomy project, the students will be treated to an assembly with Slim Goodbody, a children’s educational entertainer, who is a particularly perfect entertainment choice considering the theme of body parts.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.