My birthday went something like this:
Elvis is singing on a stage with over 1,000 preschoolers screaming and waving their arms. Next, my friend Tammi Sauer does the robot dance while singing, “How jerky is your turkey…” with her high school backup dancers, and then a chicken dressed like Elvis struts onto the stage.
Sound like a bad dream? Nope, it’s all true! And all part of a literacy event at the Oklahoma City Zoo called Read Across Oklahoma 2010: Reading Rocks!
The event, now in its tenth year, is a combined partnership to promote reading to disadvantaged preschoolers.
“It’s all in hopes that these three- and four-year-olds will develop an appreciation for learning,” said Lori Holliday of OETA Public Television. “We combine a variety of teaching tools, such as free books from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, our television shows, and this culminating event where we bring stories to life.”
This year’s rockin’ theme was inspired from the book Chicken Dance, by Oklahoma author, Tammi Sauer.
“My book features a rock n’ roll star named Elvis Poultry,” said Sauer. “And since the zoo just opened its new Children’s Zoo with a barnyard and chickens, it was a fun tie-in.”
The show in the Aquaticus stadium did, in fact, feature an Elvis impersonator and an actor playing the role of Elvis Poultry—who read the story and did a lot of squawking with the kids.
Students from Capitol Hill High School and Metro-Tech assisted the children on their field trip adventure through the zoo by hosting alphabet stations, tattoo stops, and a dance station where they learned the “real” chicken dance. Prior to the big day, they also sewed over 1,000 miniature Elvis capes (complete with blingy rhinestones) for the children to wear.
Imagine how cute that was!
A $25,000 grant from Target made it possible to provide lunch and many materials for the event. Many Target employees volunteered for Read Across Oklahoma, doing everything from rolling hot dogs to parking buses. They also delivered copies of Chicken Dance for every single child to take home and read before the event.
“Because the children were already familiar with story, they could answer Elvis Poultry’s questions during the show,” said Holliday. “It’s so great that now they can read this book over and over again, continue to discover it and learn from it.”
To add my own quote to the mix, “I’m thrilled that the zoo has become a site where children can be inspired to love nature and reading at the same time.”
What better way for a writer to spend her birthday?
Thanks to these other great sponsors: Capitol Hill High School’s Family Community and Career Leaders of America (FCCLA) and ROTC, Krueger Charitable Foundation, Metro Tech, OETA, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, OZS ZooFriends, Target and the Zoo.
Committee Members: Kerri McLinn, Oklahoma Department of Libraries; DJ Watts Bowker, Capitol Hill High School; Sara Collins, Metro Tech; Donna Onley, Target; Heide Hartfield, Target; Candice Rennels, Oklahoma City Zoo.