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Author tells PS 33 kids of fondness for reading

“I was 8 years old when I started to write,” Cari Best told an audience of third, fourth and fifth graders at PS 33 on a rainy Friday morning. “People would laugh, but I would write everywhere.”

Best, children’s book author, was the guest speaker at PS 33 — the Edward M Funk School at 91-37 222nd St. in Queens Village — for its ninth annual Read-A-Thon, designed to instill a lifelong love of books and reading in the school’s students

“First, I write it out on paper and then type it on an old electric typewriter,” Best explained to a student on the steps she takes when writing a book. “Then I send the book to my editor in Massachusetts and she sends it back with scribbles, just like when your teacher hands back your papers.”

Best, who grew up in Kew Gardens Hills and graduated from John Bowne High School in Flushing, has written 10 children’s books, including “Last Licks” about pink Spalding balls and “Three Cheers for Katherine the Great” about her Russian grandmother.

Lawrence Cohen, the principal of PS 33, said the goal of the Read-A-Thon is to stress the importance of reading to the school’s students. He said the program takes place every year on the last Friday in March — two weeks before the citywide reading tests — and marks the culmination of a yearlong effort to teach the students the importance of reading.

“Parents, local politicians and community members come to the school to read to the students,” Cohen said. “They are sent off to different classes and each class gets two, three or four readers.”

The students raise money for the event at fall and spring book fairs, he said, and those funds cover the cost of buying the books written by the children’s author chosen to speak at the school’s Read-A-Thon.

‘‘It is great,” said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who was one of the readers. “I have done it before and it is a great idea to get kids into reading. There is nothing better on a rainy day then curling up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate.”

The Read-A-Thon was started nine years ago by the school’s former assistant principal, Evelyn Stein, who wanted to impart her love of books to the students. She said she pitched the idea to the school’s former principal, Edward Funk, who loved the idea.

“I love books and I wanted kids to want to read,” said Stein, who had taught at the school for 30 years. “If kids can read, everything else is easy.”

Sandy Ray, president of the Parent Teacher Association at PS 33, said she and the other parents enjoy the event because it allows them to go into classes and interact with the students.

“It motivates them [the students] when they actually meet an author who has put several books together,” said the mother of three PS 33 students. “It motivates them to want to read more of the authors work because they have met face to face.”

Katie Martinez, a parent who has two children in the school and watched another two graduate, said she has been working at the event since its inception and it is great for the kids to meet and talk to the authors of books they have read.

“It is fun,” said a girl in a group of PS 33 student council members.

When asked to name their favorite Cari Best books, they screamed “Last Licks” and “Getting Used to Harry.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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