These second-graders are all ears as Children’s Librarian Penny Berube reads a passage from Thank You Sarah., VALLEY DISPATCH/MICHAEL PIGEON
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BY DENNIS SHAUGHNESSEY, Valley Dispatch Staff

DRACUT — An army of little crumb-crunchers get off the bus and traipse through the lobby of the Campbell Elementary School for the 8:50 a.m. bell.

Boys talk about video games and spelling words, while the girls talk about last night’s episode of Zoey 101. The boys push and shove coming through the door and one youngster is scolded for some vague infraction.

“Who’s that guy?” asks one little boy, looking at the man with the notebook sitting outside Principal Jill Mullavey’s office.

“He’s a reader,” offers his pal. “Today is reading day.”

As part of American Education Week, Mullavey invited about two dozen community leaders to read to students from preschool to fourth grade and answer questions. Guests included School Superintendent Elaine Espindle, Town Manager Dennis Piendak, Acting Police Chief Kevin Richardson, as well as town selectmen, School Committee members, Town Clerk Kathy Graham and several firefighters and retired teachers. Also on hand was State Trooper Anthony DeLucia, a Dracut resident, and a local newspaper reporter (yours truly.)

As the readers milled about in the school lobby, students came out of their classrooms to escort their “readers” to their respective classrooms.

A cute little red-haired girl named Erin escorted the newspaper reporter to Mary Zukowski’s second-grade class.

The reporter read the 1997 tome, The Meanest Thing To Say, by Bill Cosby. The book teaches children how to respond to insults. The reporter stopped intermitently to ask the students how they thought the book would turn out. He then took questions from the students.

“Are you really a newspaper reporter?” asked Brandon. “Do you have to be a good speller?”

“What do you write about?” asked a little girl. “Do you make the newspaper?”

Mary Zukowski said her students are an inquisitive bunch.

Gauging the reaction of the community readers as they left the school that morning, it was obvious that the feeling was mutual.

Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is dshaughnessey@thevalleydispatch.com.