Dressed in a tuxedo, bow tie and wire-rimmed glasses, the Big Bad Wolf huffed and puffed and pounded on desktops in an elementary-school classroom Wednesday in an unusual effort to persuade children to read.
Alexander the Wolf, a.k.a. Pam Bunker, who works with the reading program at Clinton Elementary School in Garden Grove, told the students that the episode with the three little pigs was wildly exaggerated by the media and that to find out how it really happened, they should read the book.
The event was part of an annual tradition in which schoolteachers and administrators dress up and perform as popular children's storybook characters to encourage pupils' interest in books. Reading teacher Barbara Barker said the 7-year-old program has been remarkably successful.
"What happens is they want to get the books out of the library immediately," she said.
The program features children's books widely recognized for their use of language, she explained. "Because we have so many Spanish-speaking students, we want them to hear good English." This year, the books include "Ira Sleeps Over" and "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs."
Jose Ferrer, 9, said the program "makes kids want to read. The kids want to know what happens at the end and (the teachers) don't tell. They're tricking kids to read the book. I think it's fun, especially for the little kids. It's entertaining. . . .
"Last year, I rushed to the library to get them. It encouraged me to read, and I went over there and read all the books they told us about."
"Anything that can get them to read is good," said his teacher, Linda Ramirez. "And I know they will now go out and get these books."
Second-grade teacher John Minaker dressed up in green pajamas and held a big teddy bear for his presentation of the popular "Ira Sleeps Over" book.
"I've had good attention so far. The biggest kick they get is seeing their teacher dressed up. It promotes and ignites" their interest in reading, he said.
The children, it seems, are getting the message. Shaun McComes, 8, said he prefers reading to watching the teachers perform "because you can see the pictures. You can keep a book all your life, but not the program."