It was, as Mondays tend to be, a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good and Very Bad Day.”
Well at least for the fabled Alexander, a disheveled young boy awash in misfortune in Judith Viorst’s 1972 classic children’s book, which United Way volunteers read to un-terrible, un-horrible, very good and certainly not bad first grade students at Midland elementary schools.
Volunteers from The Dow Chemical Co., Dow Corning and Chemical Bank are participating as they read to students, building an awareness of early grade reading, and to encourage a love of reading at home. At Plymouth Elementary, Molly Kalahar’s students poured in from recess and arranged neatly in a huddle, cross-legged, in front of Mauro Gregorio. The CEO of Dow Corning asked whether they had heard of the company. Much of his job requires reading reports and communicating, so reading is important, he said. As he introduced the title, one boy’s hand (and smile) shot upward.
“I’m Alexander!” he said.
Gregorio read the first paragraph, words that set the defining theme: “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair, and when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, no good, very bad day.”
The list goes on: Alexander’s mom forgot to pack him dessert. His teacher tells him Paul’s picture of a sailboat is nicer than Alexander’s picture of an invisible castle. Paul says Alexander is no longer his best friend. At counting time, he omitted 16 (“Who needs 16?”). He sang too loud. And, the cat doesn’t want to sleep with him. He considers moving to Australia, far away from the troubles.
It was, as Gregorio read from the book’s repetitive, signature ending line, a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”
“He wants to have a good day,” one student said.
“He will, it’ll come,” Gregorio reassured.
The students, undistracted by cameras and several classroom visitors, listened to the end. Among their favorite parts: “The kitty!” “When he stubbed his toes.” “When he got soap in his eyes.” (You know, all the essential story elements.)
Faces lit with more wonder when Gregorio presented copies of “Saving Animal Babies,” by Amy Shields, to all students.
“Look at how cute that is!” one said.
With the parting gift, Gregorio bid goodbye. Readings continued in nearby classrooms. He stopped outside the school for a corporate recording.
“It’s been a long time,” the father of 25- and 28-year-olds told the camera.
It enlivened memories, and Gregorio said the students’ quietness, participation and leadership surprised him. The outing beat a Monday morning in the office, which is “typically a little more boring than this,” he said.
As in the book, there was a serious subtext to United Way’s outreach on Monday.
“Studies show that students reading at grade level in the third grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school,” Holly Miller, United Way’s vice president of impact and communications, said in a press release.
The organization recently announced a $4.5 million goal for its annual campaign this year. The event on Monday to promote literacy was the kickoff to that. In 2015, donors raised more than $4.9 million. The focus of those funds centered on education, health and self-sufficiency in the Midland County community.
Volunteers plan to read to second-graders on Monday, Sept. 19, and third-graders on Monday, Sept. 26.