Morningside Elementary School

Miami, FL


Another sunny day in Miami brought out community leaders and the whole student and administrative population of K-8 school, Morningside Elementary! Although the elementary school had expanded to include middle school students just three years ago, books for those reading levels were not added at that time, so this was a golden opportunity for the educators to address that need!

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After first-grade teacher Ms. Alvarado greeted every one with a warm “good morning,” two little girls and three little boys from the kindergarten were called up onto the stage and fearlessly led the entire assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Following that was the Morningstar Academy Chorus leading everyone in the National Anthem. Afterwards, Principal Kathleen John-Louissaint ascended to the stage to welcome everyone to Morningside Academy, home of the dolphins! To stress the importance of reading she quoted Barry Lopez saying, “Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”

Children DancingThen mentioned that “the focus of the day is reading and how it can open new horizons.” She recognized all the special guests, Melba Brito, Administrative Director for the Education/Transformation Office; two ladies from Miami-Dade Public Schools Elementary Reading Department; members of the Board of Education; Kiwanis representatives and the PTA President. She also thanked the committee members for their support as well, because reading has such a profound impact on children.

In the video that was played, Dr. Carson described his work as a neurosurgeon. In addition, he elaborated on how he and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund, which was to encourage children to expand their horizons and do their best academically.  He said, “With a book you can go anywhere, meet anyone you want to meet and expand your dreams.  Remember, the person who has the most to do with what happens to you….is you! You can change your circumstances through reading!”  After expressing his congratulations, he charged the students to read every day and to always THINK BIG!

The Academy Chorus of 30 singers, led by Rolney DuVernye from the keyboard, presented “Shalom Aleichem,” in Hebrew. The English translation is “May Peace Be With You.”

Mrs. Gina Flores, the organizer for the room, proclaimed this as a special day. The plan was to create a magical place, an oasis where all students can become enraptured by a book. Since the books in the library were limited to elementary levels and tastes, not many would appeal to the new middle school students in their midst. She said that “the Ben Carson Reading Room is like a special gift and a place for discovery, learning and reflection for all.”

Next were remarks about reading, brought by students Ariella Germeus and Laicka Almonor. “When I think of a book, anything is possible…I can go to another world.” They shared that “the Ben Carson Reading Room is important to us because it shows how much people care about us! We can have a better future with books!”

CandyAfter helping the students understand that they never have to be bored as long as they have a book, Mrs. Candy Carson spoke about the logistics of life. The average person lives to be about 80 years old. You can spend the first 20-25 years preparing yourself, or not preparing yourself.  If you prepare yourself, you will have 55-60 years to reap the benefits and enjoy life, if you do not prepare yourself, you have 55-60 years to suffer the consequences and be filled with regret. It’s your choice. She continued with the story of one of her husband’s patients who underwent surgery to remove half of her brain to stop her seizures. The half of the brain that was removed was the part where logic is processed and she and her parents were afraid that she might not be able to do well in math anymore. But this little girl worked so hard, that at the end of the year she was at the top of her math class and that was with only half of a brain! If she can do that with half of a brain, what can you do with a whole brain and a little determination? Mrs. Carson ended her speech with the charge to the students to thank all of those who helped make the room a reality, because each of those people cares about them and their future!

Three student presentations followed. The first was a poem entitled, “Look in a Book,” by Ivy Eastwick. This was recited by Cindy Moreira and Amarise deFranco. It started with “Look in a book and you will see words, and magic, and mystery!” The second set of student presenters, Maria Taylor and Noah Whyte, recited “Be the Best You,” another inspirational poem. This poem begins with “We are perfectly imperfect and beautiful within, because beauty isn’t skin deep it’s deeper than the skin!” “Books are Great” was the last recitation of the program. Middle school students, Amarise DeFranco and  Rishnye Eugene, stood playing bongos and chanted the poem right behind the nine selected kindergarten students who sat on the edge of the stage.

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The Room

On the way to the reading room through the outdoor walkways, a THINK BIG bulletin board boasts photos of children reading books together. It also has a huge thank you note on white poster board that takes up a quarter of the space! One of the school’s mottos is prominently displayed on another bulletin board. It’s stark, black background with brightly colored paper emphasizes the importance of the words written on it, which says, “Working every day to make our good better and our better GREAT!”

Long photo of roomThe reading room at the school is situated behind the check-out desk in the school library, which is decorated with paintings of children leaning against a tree reading books. Another little boy is cradled in a quarter moon with a book high above a town of vibrant colors topping the various homes. In one corner, several jungle animals listen to an elephant reading a book, including a chimp hanging nearby from a palm tree! The original designs of the library were developed to motivate younger readers, therefore the organizers determined to make the new reading room appealing to middle school students as well. Above the entrance to the reading room, a quote by Dr. Seuss encourages students saying, “The more that you read, the more you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

The school colors of turquoise and grey dominate the background, as the walls and floors are in shades of those tones. And there are actually two rooms sharing a common grey portal to cozy things up even more! In the first room, the cabinets are covered in gray fabric above the cleverly disguised sink with a carved turquoise shark bearing the words “Dive into a great book!”

The pale gray linoleum floor has a deeper gray rug with huge golden flowers, which unites a seating group of a padded steel-toned sofa, a wide, armless stuffed velour upholstered chair and a four-sectioned storage ottoman. THINK BIG in rainbow letters is showcased above the portal on a turquoise wall. Adjacent on a silver gray wall hangs the four-foot banner identifying the roomGirls Reading In Room as a Ben Carson Reading Room. Underneath the banner is a bookcase with pullout bins, as well as baskets of books on top. In the corner sits a desk with windows that are covered in turquoise paper to help keep minds from being distracted by library business. Several books are painted on the wall, but the one on the way out has a pair of dolphins splashing out of it! The “Dream, Believe, Discover” encouragement is stenciled in a flowing font in both rooms for all to see.

The second room has zigzag patterns throughout, possibly symbolizing how you can start in one direction and change, which can be for the better! The pattern is displayed on three over-stuffed armless chairs in gray and white, on a large floor rug in gold and white and also in the owl pillows’ wings! Floral floor pillows are decked out in big, gold, gray and orange blossoms on a white background. The pale green bean bag sofa invites groups to relax together with their favorite stories and well-placed accent lighting and tables make it even more inviting.

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On the almost floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that dominate two of the walls are carved, wooden, bold, black letters among the tons of books on the bookshelves. One rather large wall was left solid gray with no photos or other artwork to foster dreams and imagination!!

Special thanks to the Harry F. Duncan Foundation for making this special room possible and to the Kiwanis Club of Biscayne Bay, and the Army Corps of Engineers for their help as well.



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