BATAVIA – With a goal to have everyone at H.C. Storm Elementary School in Batavia discover a love for reading and a passion for books, Principal Anne Paonessa dreamed up a magical space.
“It’s a beautiful new space created by parent volunteers and staff to provide a quiet space for students to read and write, a space for classes to come for assignments, and a space to ignite students’ interest in books,” Sue Gillerlain, communications manager for Batavia Public School District 101, said in an email.
HCS parents, the PTO, staff members and the district’s facilities department all pitched in to turn an underutilized space adjacent to the learning resource center into the Once Upon a Time Readers and Writers’ Lounge, a news release stated.
“It’s not only a special place for students to enjoy a book, but it’s also a space where they can be the author of their own story on their Chromebooks,” Paonessa stated in the release. “When students walk into the Once Upon a Time Readers and Writers’ Lounge, we want them to be inspired.”
HCS parents Matt and Lindsey Williams, owners of MW Specialties, a Batavia-based home improvement and repair company, built the giant, walk-through wooden book that serves as the entryway to the new space.
As soon as the unique piece was completed and in place, HCS art teacher Joseph Casbarian went to work transforming the entry into a fairy tale visual. Casbarian asked students what color to paint the dragon that curls around the archway, and they chose red.
HCS parents Andrew and Stephanie Schones, owners of Both/And Pictures, a full-service media production company in Batavia, took photos of HCS students reading and writing, and turned the images into works of art in the space. The HCS PTO helped to fund the furnishings and artwork.
“This new learning space wouldn’t be the same without the efforts of our talented volunteers,” Paonessa said.
At the May 23 grand opening, guests enjoyed poetry readings by HCS fifth-graders Tess Ricke and Marcus Baffes and a ribbon-cutting featuring HCS kindergartner Jack Williams. Special guest readers, including BPS101 Superintendent Lisa Hichens and administrators, sat down with Kristen O’Brien’s kindergarten class for story time.