May 23, 2024

Are you ready for some reading? Ashland first graders were

Bellview teacher Matt Damon reads his book, “The Fall of General Custard or The Overthrow of a Leftover.” Julia Sommer photo
May 4, 2023

Ashland Reads Extravaganza held live for first time in four years

By Julia Sommer for

Julia Sommer photo

Once upon a time — well, it was Wednesday, May 3 — there was the first live Rotary Ashland Reads event in four years. It was a huge, lively success.

First-graders from Bellview, Helman, Walker, Willow Wind, and TRAILS schools arrived by bus and on foot at Ashland High School in the morning, where they were welcomed by Rotarians and members of Ashland Fire & Rescue, who were there to barbecue lunch for the large gathering (putting out little grease fires along the way).

Rotarian Scott Malbaurn, director of SOU’s Schneider Museum of Art, serves lunch. Julia Sommer photo

The first graders filled most of Mountain Avenue Theatre for a program of music led by Tish McFadden, founder of Ashland’s Rum Tum School of Music, and story-telling by Bellview teacher Matt Damon, who read his charming “The Fall of General Custard or The Overthrow of a Leftover” as it was projected on a huge screen. Ashland Librarian Lyn Hereema led an on-stage discussion of the story with students from each of the five schools.

It seems that “Old McDonald” is still very popular with young children, as is the alphabet song. There was also a certain amount of friendly rivalry between the five schools, with decibel levels rising to prove the point.

Tish McFadden of Rum Tum School of Music led the singing. Julia Sommer photo

Students had chosen their favorite of five books ahead of time, which were paraded on stage by Rotarians and SOU Rotaract students in gaily decorated sandwich boards: “Invasion of the Unicorns,” “Wonder Walkers,” “The Sour Grape,” “Berry Song” and “Toasty.”

After lunch outdoors served by Rotarians, the first graders received book bags containing their chosen book (provided at a generous discount by Tree House Books) and other goodies courtesy of SOU’s Schneider Museum of Art (the book, “Making a Great Exhibition”), Ashland Parks & Recreation (a day pass for Daniel Meyer pool), ScienceWorks (a day pass), and bookmarks from Paddington Station. Rotarians distributed a total of 175 bags.

Heard from a first-grader at the end of the event: “This was the best field trip of my entire life!”

Sponsored, organized, and presented by Ashland’s two Rotary clubs, hard-working co-chairs of Ashland Reads were Kristin McKean, Kim Galloway, Chris Chambers and Shonelle Quattlebaum.

Email freelance writer Julia Sommer of Ashland at

Ashland’s five elementary schools enter one by one. Julia Sommer photo
Fire Captain Justin Foss, Past Rotarian President Jerry Kenefick, and Ashland’s new Emergency Management Coordinator Kelly Burns. Julia Sommer photo
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Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Email him at

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