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Gulf Gate Elementary School Principal Robin Magac and pre-kindergarten student Madelyn Cohen meet Zeus, a 6-month-old llama from Oak Crest Farms. Courtesy photo.
Siesta Key Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 6 years ago

Gulf Gate students join national reading initiative

by: Rachel Brown Hackney Managing Editor

The approximately 750 students at Gulf Gate Elementary School joined forces with students all across the country Oct. 6 to “Read for the Record,” which emphasizes the importance of reading to young children in families of all income levels.

Having donned her red “jammies” for the occasion, Principal Robin Magac started the event at 8:30 a.m. by reading the children’s book, “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” by Anna Dewdney. All the students were able to enjoy the experience, thanks to the school’s closed-circuit television system.

During the morning telecast, Gulf Gate Elementary’s Tiger Town News Crew, made up of fifth-graders, shared with students and staff a video featuring Kathy Wilbanks, who raises llamas at Oak Crest Farms. Wilbanks surprised the students with a visit by two special guests — adult llama Serendipity, a certified pet therapy animal, and 6-month-old Zeus.

“It was such a good time; it was awesome,” Magac said of the event. The only problem she encountered was from having to wear those red pajamas all day. “I was comfy,” she said, “but I was so hot!”

The annual reading initiative is sponsored by Jumpstart, which was founded in 1993 at Yale University, in partnership with the Pearson Foundation. Read for the Record began in 2006. Jumpstart’s goal, according to its website (, is to help children in low-income neighborhoods get the jumpstart they need in preschool to be successful in life.

Each year since 2006, youngsters at schools nationwide have joined in reading classic children’s stories such as “The Little Engine That Could” and “The Story of Ferdinand.”

The 2010 campaign involved 2,057,513 children, “creating the largest shared reading experience in history” the Jumpstart website says.

As of Monday, Jumpstart was working on its final tally for the 2011 readers.

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