Teacher-librarian Lynne Sundstrom sprays Birch Lane Principal Kathy Tyzzer's hair blue as the student body watches on the school quad. Tyzzer pledged to go blue if students read 10,000 picture books during February; they surpassed her challenge and read 13,275 picture books. Teacher Brian Bennett also shaved off his beard; he hasn't been clean-shaven in 10 years. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo


Birch Lane kids get reading rewards

By From page B3 | March 20, 2013

Birch Lane Elementary School Principal Kathy Tyzzer told students if they read 10,000 picture books during February, she would dye her hair blue.

Teacher Brian Bennett said he would shave off his beard — and he hasn’t gone clean-shaven in 10 years.

Students responded by reading not 10,000 picture books, but by reading 13,275 picture books during the month of February.

So last Wednesday morning, in front of a quad filled with giddy children clutching their favorite picture books, Tyzzer went blue and Bennett clean-shaven.

Students Emily Lin, who read 750 picture books, and Annabel Loomis, who read 275, had the honor of coloring Tyzzer’s hair.

With Tyzzer sitting in a chair, towel draped over her shoulders, the girls took turns spraying the bright blue dye on her. Teacher-librarian Lynne Sundstrom helped finish off the job.

Then it was Bennett’s turn to lather up and shave in front of the excited, cheering students.

“Six hundred people watching was a bit much,” he said afterward.

But it was appreciated.

“The kids were all saying, ‘He looks like a teenager!’ ” said teacher Eileen Keane.

The event marked the conclusion of yet another “Love a Picture Book” month at Birch Lane, which became famous around the world two years ago when the school sent a scroll-like letter to the editor to the New York Times proclaiming their love for picture books.

The letter was in response to an article in the Times that seemed to declare the demise of picture books.

The Times published Birch Lane’s letter in the newspaper, put the whole scroll on the Times website, and declared it “our favorite letter to the editor ever.”

It was later published in newspapers and on blogs and Facebook all over the world.

Since then, every February has become “Love a Picture Book” month at Birch Lane, with students reading as many of their favorites as they can.

No word yet on what next year’s goal will be — or the reward.

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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