In Events, General, Newsletter, Reading Rooms on 06/26/2024 - 3:58 PM

Berkshire Elementary School Reading Room Opening

What do the Amazon and the library have in common?

Most of us usually think of libraries as quiet, peaceful places filled with books. However, the one at Berkshire Elementary in West Palm Beach was totally abuzz with excitement about the new reading room opening in the school today!! With a reading room theme of “The Amazon,” which on the surface is also a seemingly quiet, peaceful area, but underneath is teeming with untold, unexpected adventures, the two have a bit in common!! When you’re in a library you search for a book to provide an adventure. But when you’re in the Amazon, the adventure could find you! And in a reading room based on the Amazon, it could go both ways!

In the prelude to the program, several violinists of the school music program took turns performing solos, accompanied by their teacher on the keyboard. To open the program, the entire ensemble performed an arrangement of the popular Canon in D by Pachelbel.

As a bi-lingual school, everything is presented in both languages: English and Spanish. From the Pledge of Allegiance, recited by two members of the safety patrol team, and the THINK BIG acrostic, presented by more of the safety patrollers, to a special poem entitled Animal’s Love to Read, which was recited by fourth-grader Anthony Mastrapa in English, followed by fourth grader Jasmine Regueira in Spanish at the end of the program! And both poetry presenters accompanied their recitations with the same choreographed hand and body motions to enhance the words!

In addition to her warm welcome early in the program, Principal Diana Fernandez returned to the podium to gift the sponsors with an original canvas painting of a learning tree with the caption, “Thank you for helping us THINK BIG”.



The two principals of the sponsoring organization, Affiliated Development, Nick Rojo and Jeff Burns were both present to share in the celebration! Nick’s wife Sarah and their little newborn were present as well. Nick Rojo, in his comments, said that as real estate developers, “our job is to create a better quality of life for the residents.” As developers, they make large investments in the communities where they work, and they could think of no better way of expanding their investing than “investing in our youth!” This is evidenced by the fact that all their philanthropy is directed toward youth organizations. He stated the power of reading has a direct correlation with students’ future success in life, increasing knowledge, awareness and empathy. After citing several successful people who are avid readers and lifelong learners, he concluded with “Success isn’t just about what you do, it’s about how you inspire others!”

Jeff Burns began with how important reading is in their jobs as real estate developers. When he asked how many really loved reading, he joked about having brought contracts for them to check out and stressed how “being proficient in understanding what’s in the contracts is extremely important.” Then, holding up a cell phone he asked how many owned one (and most did!).  He then revealed several statistics about cell phone usage, including “the average person spends at least three hours on the cell each day.” When he followed with the question, “What if you spent those three hours reading?”, one of the students raised his hand to answer, and said, “Why are you talking like my mom?” After the laughter subsided, Jeff continued his logic: at 3 hours per day, you would have read more than 1,000 hours in a year! And think how much more you would know!” He ended by encouraging them all to read as much as possible.

After thank yous to all in attendance, the group of safety guards escorted guests to the new reading room.

The Amazing Amazon

One of the reasons the Amazon jungle was chosen as the theme of the room is that it is an ecosystem where all things work together, in harmony, and for the good of all. One of the committee members shared that this model also teaches the students to protect our planet, because they will soon become the administrators of it! The purpose sends a message to the students as well as adults!

As you approach the room, columns of festive balloons on either side of the nook housing the entrance greet you! The painting of a girl reading in the outdoors, surrounded by nature with butterflies hovering near portends the peace and tranquility to be found within.

Before the overhead lights are switched on, the night sky seems filled with sparkling stars, both overhead and in the background of the huge mural!

Larger than life wildlife from around the world, including a jaguar, a huge bluish-black panther and a rare white tiger make this Amazon unique!!

A scholarly, stuffed fierce owl perches in the brush, overseeing the jungle activity not far from an anaconda on top of the bookcase as it travels in and around various books to lead a student seeker to a book that suits his or her fancy! And not far from there is a friendly elephant, just begging for an adventurous student to choose him as a ‘reading buddy’ as he lays flat on his tummy with his front legs reaching out around his extended trunk, smiling! Then, underneath the friendly trio is a crawl-in space for adventurers to explore with their chosen book on cozy cushions!

Not to be outdone, the king of forest (Lion) is high up on a tall bookcase overlooking the jungle scene just out of reach from a playful gibbon just hanging around…from a swinging vine!

And there’s a sad-eyed sloth, sitting, reading in the shade under a gauzy canopy shelter, who doesn’t mind sharing his secluded spot with a smiling monkey and with a giraffe looking over their shoulders at the pictures!

Several 7-8″-tall velour animal hand puppets stand at attention on the top shelf of a low bookcase, looking like the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall, ready to spring into action! This thoughtful addition provides an opportunity for students to creatively express their inspirations!!

Wispy green foliage cascades from high points near the ceiling, while forest-y rugs of leaves cover sections of the floor. In one area you can pull up a stump (a soft one) and “sit a spell” while you read, and in another, lily pad pillows offer alternative seating.

On the last wall, in the THINK BIG artwork on one wall, each letter is configured as an animal that starts with it, for example T= tiger, H=horse, N=narwhale and G=giraffe! And throughout the room are many bookcases with beckoning literature (organized according to reading level, of course!)

Realizing that there are no tigers or elephants or panthers in the original Amazon, the students’ imaginations are definitely being fueled here!

Special thank yous to:

Ms. Alexandria Ayala, Palm Beach County School Board Member
Mr. Chuck Shaw, Mayor of Greenacres
Major Hargrove, Palm Beach School District Police
Ms. Christy Aliaga, Central Region Office Team Leader
Ms. Darlene Starling, Berkshire Elementary School Assistant Principal
Mrs. Diana Fernandez, Berkshire Elementary School Principal


Written By: Mrs. Candy Carson

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