This was no sweetheart deal.
Brad Greene, the principal at Crabbe Elementary, made a deal with students that if they read 5,000 books in a two-week period he would dress up as a Valentine.
“I thought I’d set it high enough,” he said Friday morning.
Not only did the students reach the goal, they surpassed it. The final count was 5,687 books read, according to school librarian Angie Conley.
True to his word, Greene was a walking, talking Valentine as Crabbe students came to school on Friday morning. He wore pink heart sweat pants, his wife’s pink fluffy jacket and a pink Harlem Wizards headband. He also wore a sandwich board sign that the librarian made for him proclaiming how the Crabbe students had read 5,000 books.
Students were giving him strange glances as they walked past and he felt like a bit of a celebrity with all the photographs being taken.
“I can tell you how many people have iPhones (with cameras),” Greene said.
Conley was proud the students reached the goal with room to spare. They had from Feb. 1 to Feb. 14. The students didn’t know until they arrived on Friday morning they had achieved the goal, she said.
“We did the math. If each child read 15 books, on their own or being read to in the class, we could make it,” Conley said. “They were given a reading log, and I have the entire stack of reading logs. I’m thrilled.”
Many other teachers had fun at Greene’s expense. Nancy Hemphill said students should call him “Mr. Pink.” Others made sure they got photographs of him, too.
Not only were students giving him double-takes, but so were parents. One came up and shook his hand and several others had him pose for photographs.
Greene said he wasn’t an avid reader himself, “except for sports stuff,” but did remember when his fifth-grade teacher at Rose Hill, Beth Maynard, read aloud to the class. “Island of the Blue Dolphins” is still his favorite book, he said. “We could listen to her read a book all day long.”
Greene was proud of the Crabbe students and encouraged they reached the lofty goal, even if it came at his expense.
“I really thought I was safe,” he said.
Conley said getting students to read books isn’t easy in today’s tech-savvy world.
“When they come for library class, I encourage them to find something they like to read,” she said. “That’s the key. You can’t just hand them a book and say ‘Read this’ if it’s not something that interests them.”
With the principal providing some extra motivation, though, Conley said the students found a love for books.
“These kids deserve the best,” she said. “Anything we can do to get them to pick up a book, even if it’s something as silly as getting the principal to dress up as a Valentine.”
Greene said he’s learned his lesson on how much Crabbe students can achieve when they put their mind to it. He’s done other stunts, but this one ranks “pretty high” on the list.
Students sneered and giggled as they walked past their principal on the way into the school building. Greene asked several of the girls if they would give him their pink shoes to complete the ensemble. He was planning on wearing the costume all day.
“We appreciate Mr. Greene for being a good sport,” Conley said. “He’d do anything for our kids.”
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2648.