Greek American Institute’s 12th annual Reader’s Day

Councilman Vacca reads ‘The Cat in the Hat’ to many excited 1st graders during their school’s 12th Annual Reader’s Day last Friday morning.
Community News Group / Robert Wirsing

The Greek American Institute has penned another successful chapter in their school’s annual Reader’s Day.

The Pelham Bay-based pre-k to 8th grade school dedicated to the principles of Hellenism hosted its 12th Annual Reader’s Day on Friday, November 20 whose readers included local elected officials Senator Jeff Klein, Councilman James Vacca and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto; Queens Councilman Costa Constantinides; authors Nick Katsoris, Effie Kammenou, Gus Constantine and Yvette Manessis Corporon; Miracle Foundation co-founder Patti Tenaglia; NYC DOE Division of Non-Public Schools executive director Caren Zayde-Moncher; NYC DOE director for funded programs and policy for non-public schools Ruth Abrams; FBI agent Doug Vetrano; friends of the GAI community Matt Goldstein and Steven George and GAI Class of 2008 alum Dennis Katechis.

Famous journalist and news anchor, Katie Couric, was scheduled for last Friday’s Reader’s Day, but had to reschedule for Tuesday, November 24.

An opening ceremony at the school’s gym began with GAI’s color guard reciting the Pledge of Alliance and the GAI After School Chorus singing the American and Greek national anthems.

Principal Anne Prokop then introduced Katsoris as the event’s featured speaker who proceeded to read from his inspirational children’s book, ‘Growing up with Loukoumi’ detailing its title character’s struggle to decide what she wants to be when she grows up.

Katsoris explained its central message is to “believe in yourself and what you want to do” and had students actively reciting the recurring mantra in the story, “believe in yourself and dreams come true” during his reading.

After the ceremony, the readers made their way to individual classrooms where they read to GAI students.

Councilman Vacca read the Dr. Seuss classic ‘The Cat in the Hat’ to many bright-eyed 1st graders who clung to every word.

Assemblyman Benedetto, who served as a teacher for 35 years prior to elected office, relished being back in the classroom which was evident in his selection of Edith Pattou’s ‘Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden’.

He explained the story’s analogy tendering to a garden reflects how teachers ‘tend’ to their students to help them grow. “Reading is very important and is the foundation of everything we do,” said Prokop. “I’m a big believer in reading in not only enhancing someone’s vocabulary, but also enhance different perspectives of the world as you see it.”

Constantine, a Lehman High School Class of 1974 alum and former truck driver, read from his historical non-fiction novel ‘Escaping Cyprus’ where 12-year old Haji witnesses the brutal atrocities committed by Turkish soldiers invading his Cypriot village in 1974 and struggles to survive as he and his 27-year old school teacher Rebecca flee their village.

“I spoke with the 8th graders today and what I emphasized more than anything else was that the biggest negativity I experienced was when I told people I was writing a book,” he said adding. “I told them ‘don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything’ whether it’s academically or professionally.”

Kammenou, author of ‘Evanthia’s Gift’, read from Louis Lowry’s ‘The Giver’ and discussed with 6th graders its premise of living in a world devoid of emotion.

“I wanted to get their take on how they would feel if they didn’t have to deal with any pain or suffering especially with what’s going on in the world today and if that was a good trade off; not having any joy and not having any pain or suffering either,” she said adding. “I did a little reading, but did more discussion with them which I felt was much better for them because it was more of a give and take.”

Katechis, a GAI alum and Iona College senior, visited his alma mater to read to eager 6th, 7th and 8th graders some hauntingly thought-provoking tales from Gothic fiction legend Edgar Allan Poe such as ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ and ‘The Cask of Amontillado’.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto speaks with 4th graders after reading from Edith Pattou’s ‘Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden’.
Photo by Alexandra Lacas

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