At Clinton Avenue School, 19 years of Rosa’s Readers
New Haven Register

NEW HAVEN — The life of a pirate might not be for the children of New Haven, first-graders at Clinton Avenue School learned Wednesday morning.

U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3, launched the 19th year of her “Rosa’s Readers” first-grade literacy program at the school Wednesday; the program encourages students to read at least 20 books outside of school in a three month period.

To celebrate the program’s launch, DeLauro read the children’s book, “How I Became A Pirate,” by Melinda Long to the children. She was joined by Lou “Landlubber Lou” Mangini, one of her senior staffers, who wore an eyepatch and growled like a pirate throughout the story to the children’s delight.

As DeLauro read the story of a young boy named Jeremy being accepted by a ship of pirates as one of their own, students learned about pirate speech and manners. Pirates, the children heard, don’t have good manners.

“Do you say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’?” DeLauro asked, to an overwhelming chorus of “yes!”

Jeremy, the book’s narrator, also said that without parents around, no one tells pirates to bathe or brush their teeth. The children were turned off by this.

“If you don’t brush your teeth, bugs might come in your mouth,” said Josen Martinez, 7.

“Shiver me timbers just to think about it!” DeLauro said.

Principal Kristina DeNegre told DeLauro there is a schoolwide emphasis on vocabulary this academic year, with students encouraged to use more uncommon synonyms — such as saying ecstatic instead of excited.

Superintendent of Schools Carol Birks welcomed DeLauro by telling students she was there to challenge the students to read more books. She relayed her own experience from her youth of having a mother who told her to entertain herself by reading books.

“Because she said to read those books, today I’m standing here as your superintendent,” Birks said.

As DeLauro polled the students on what they like to read, she began to notice a trend — sharks, dolphins and crabs.

“Did you all go to the aquarium?” she asked.

The students responded that they had, in fact, visited the aquarium with their Clinton Avenue classmates.

She asked the students their favorite animals, and some students shared a preference for land animals, such as elephants.

“You can’t just go to Africa or to India and see the elephants, but you can read about them,” DeLauro said. “As Dr. Birks says: if you don’t know what to do, pick up a book.”

Josen said reading the 20-book minimum requirement wouldn’t be a challenge for him.

“I have lots of books,” he said.

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