Reading ‘Phanatics’ at Our Lady of Fatima School get special visitor

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Staff reporter

 NEW CASTLE — It wasn’t Citizens Bank Park, but Our Lady of Fatima School looked and sounded like the home of the Philadelphia Phillies on March 23.

Many of the students and teachers dressed in Phillies red for the day as a special visitor took a break from spring training to reward them for their dedication to reading.

The Phillie Phanatic visited the New Castle school because it was selected as a winner in the Phillies’ “Be a Phanatic About Reading” program, an annual contest for students in elementary schools designed to improve literacy skills. Students were asked to read for a minimum of 15 minutes a day. In 2010-11, nearly 100,000 students participated, according to the Phillies.

The Phillie Phanatic gets comfortable as the Kate Julian reads his book about him at Our Lady of Fatima School,March 23, The Dialogwww.DonBlakePhotography.com

After a slide show of the Phanatic’s trip to his native Galapagos Islands, the furry green mascot entered the cafeteria to screams and applause. The next 40 minutes were a mix of dancing with teachers, shaking his stomach and playing the drums on the head of principal Kathleen Kenney.

Sixth-grade teacher Melissa Foran, an avid Phillies fan and season-ticket holder, thought the program would be fun for the Fatima students, so she entered the school in the contest.

“Be a Phanatic About Reading” is divided into two levels, K-3 and 4-8. Each month, students received a calendar to color in the days they read at least 15 minutes, and the calendars were returned to the Phillies. The top-performing schools received a visit.

Kate Julian, whose second-graders earned the visit, read the Phanatic’s new book, “Phillie Phanatic’s Galapagos Island Adventure” as the mascot acted out the scenes with various props, most of which ended up on Julian’s head or in her arms. By the end of the book, she was also wearing oversized blue shoes.

In the book, the Phanatic wonders why he is so different from everyone else in Philadelphia, and he returns to his homeland to see where he was born. While there, he gets the message that it’s OK to be different – and he finds out that everyone there is a big Phillies fan because of him.

Foran and third-grade teacher Rebecca Waldron were among the teachers pulled from their seats to learn the Phanatic’s dance moves.

After the mascot’s departure, Waldron’s students said they didn’t know their teacher could dance.

“It was awesome,” Waldron said. “My husband will think it was great.”

Foran said of all the times she had been to Citizens Bank Park, she had never gotten to dance with the Phanatic until this visit. She said the afternoon was a great way to end a week of Terra Nova testing.

“He really brought in a lot of the fun of the ballpark,” she said.