GREAT FALLS — On Thursday at Chief Joseph Elementary School in Great Falls, the magic of reading came to life.
To celebrate 25 years since the release of the first book in the massively popular Harry Potter series, Scholastic donated 25,000 copies of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” to all 78 of the Scripps Howard Fund’s Title 1 schools, including Chief Joseph.
Every student in grades 3-6 was given a copy to add to their home libraries.
But rather than just hand out books at an assembly, Chief Joseph transformed their school into Hogwarts for a week. Several classrooms had banners from the four houses of the famous wizarding school - Gryffindor, Slythern, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff.
They re-created the iconic 9 & 3/4 train platform in the hallway. Chief Joseph turned the library into the Great Hall where kids filed in ready to be transported to the world of witchcraft and wizardry.
“When we heard that we were chosen to celebrated the 25th anniversary of Harry Potter, the magic started to spread,” said librarian Tara Murillo. “We had so many fans at our school, teachers started to decorate doors, had plans to make wands. It really was contagious.”
Inside the library, kids were in for a special surprise. Murillo enlisted second grader Sawyer Norris to play the part of Harry Potter and 4th grade teacher Adam Agamenoni to step into the shoes of Hogwarts groundskeeper Rubeus Hagrid for a special performance leading up to the book handout.
It was quite the undertaking for Murillo and the staff at Chief Jospeh, but getting kids excited about reading was worth the effort. Students were thrilled with their news books.
“Oftentimes we tell kids reading can take you on an adventure. It invites you in. But this book, there's just something about it,” Murillo said. “From the vocabulary to the setting. It's just been an explosion of excitement. And the neat thing is once kids are hooked, they read the first book. They want more. It just is nonstop from here on out. Potter mania.”
As a Title 1 school, many of the students at Chief Joseph receive free or reduced price lunches indicating that they come from low-income households. Often, they grow up in homes without books. And that makes giveaways like these and programs like KRTV’s annual “If You Give a Child a Book…” campaign vital to help ensure future academic success.
“Givng third through sixth graders books is awesome,” Agamenoni said. “Just getting kids reading and in the practice of reading is incredibly important. There’s some kids that don’t really have many of their own books and stuff. So being able to give each kid a book is just awesome.”
If you’d like to support this year’s “If You Give a Child a Book…” campaign, and donate money to buy books for children at Sunnyside Elementary in Great Falls click here.