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School Administrators and Teachers

Cool Classics! has become an integral part of our school-wide plan to foster a love for reading and learning. Ms. Tapp’s passion for the program is infectious and has transformed many of its participants.” – Carlos Azcoitia Jr., Former Principal, Horace Greeley Elementary School, a 2007 NCLB Blue Ribbon School

Cool Classics! has been a staple at Greeley elementary’s community school program. Its staff has worked collaboratively with Urban Gateways to bring an appreciation of the visual performance arts, as well as the love of books and learning to the students at Greeley. Cool Classics! provides the students with exposure to new cultures, literature, and experiences like live performances and classic books. For example, last summer they read The Phantom Tollbooth and took a field trip to The Field Museum, where they were able to talk with real scientists to make real connections to the book. It is these type of experiences that students may not have had access to otherwise. Cool Classics! is a great program for the students and parents of Greeley.” – Scott Boscapomi, Community Programs Manager, Urban Gateways

“Start to finish Cool Classics! is one of the best after-school programs your school can adopt. The primary students loved all aspects – the rigorous arts, theater, and literary-infused activities and experiences. The Cool Classics! crew held high expectations for the students and worked closely with the school and parents to achieve some lofty goals that increased parent involvement for our school. Our culminating event served to highlight the work the students had done. Thank you Mara and the Cool Classics! crew.” – Andalib Khelghati, Principal, Dewey Elementary School, and former Assistant Principal, William C. Reavis Math & Science Specialty Elementary School

“It was exactly what I was looking for. The school was abuzz with excitement. It was, ‘Oh, Mara’s here. Did you see whom she brought? Did you see the kids? They’re so excited!’ and it was obvious when you were here with your program, and it was first rate. It was quality.” – Dr. Kathleen Hagstrom, Principal, Walt Disney Magnet School

“There are so many ways to take a book and make it the focus of learning. We focus on the literature to teach children reading strategies to improve comprehension and critical thinking skills. We teach children to question what they read, and that reading should inspire thoughts and ideas that can be discussed, explored, and interpreted in various ways. Learning, especially for young children, needs to be equally fun and educational, and there is educational value in art-making activities. With Ferdinand we also promote reading for enjoyment — to laugh, feel or experience something new through music, dance, theater, and role-playing. These activities allow the children to identify with characters in the book and make comparisons that further their own understanding of their place in society.” – Evie Pena-Shives, Kindergarten teacher, Walt Disney Magnet School, Cool Classics! teacher and Board member

“It’s wonderful that each child has their own book and they’re getting exposure to a really interesting children’s story that they all seem to like a lot. [It’s] an arts integrated way of learning literature. So they’re making props. They’re moving. They’re acting. They’re dancing. They get to see real life artists [and learn] what they do and how they think about their work. I think the kids like it quite a bit and [are] very excited.” – Natalie Butler, Music teacher, Walt Disney Magnet School

“Criseyde suddenly was coming up and hugging me, because I think she felt a connection to the school in a different way than she ever had. That one incident made me think that’s neat. She feels differently about school. She feels differently about everything. I do think that parents are looking for this for their children, and I think the level of parent involvement that you had [was] really outstanding. It’s also a way to bring in parents, and it’s also a way to make parents feel the way that Criseyde felt – part of the school – because it gives them an opportunity to become involved in a different way.” – Leonie Deutsch, Former Early Childhood Center Director, Walt Disney Magnet School


“My first impression was that we were going to be reading from classic literature. I didn’t realize that the kids were going to be active in the creation of the play. I didn’t realize that there was going to be so much arts surrounding it. I thought it was going to be one of the run-of-the-mill after-school programs in which there’s a lot of good intentions but it doesn’t really manifest and boy, did it.” – Henry Anderson

“One day after a bilingual parent meeting, I [heard] how successful Cool Classics! was the previous year and how kids who didn’t like to read ended up liking it. At that moment, I knew this would be the perfect choice for my son who simply doesn’t like to read, but, to be honest, I didn’t know how quickly he would start reading. Now my son reads much better and he actually likes it. He reads without me asking him to do so. At the moment he’s reading one of his older sister’s books called Diary of a Wimpy Kid #1. He just looks so proud of himself and so am I. I just know that at the end of the school year, he’s not going to just like to read, he will looove it!” – Araceli Acosta

Cool Classics! helped my son to not just read words, but rather to analyze the content of the book. With Cool Classics! he has learned to become part of the story and enjoy the experience of reading.”– Veronica Norber

Cool Classics! has opened up my daughter’s imagination and made her eager to explore the world through reading! Mara Tapp brings classic novels to life in the eyes of the children, and makes them really understand what, where and why a book says what it does. …[The program] has shown that any book, old or new, can be fun to read and show you parts of the world you may never get to see.”– Suzy Harrington

Cool Classics! is the paradigm for what after-school enrichment can look like; it’s an ambitious and true synthesis of the creative arts with the world of great children’s literature and its extant ideas.” – Tony Getsug

“My daughter has benefited greatly from her time with Mara Tapp in Cool Classics! When Annie reads, she sees that it is more than just words on a page – it’s a whole universe of imagination waiting for her!” – Jane Cornett

“Sadie really wants to come here. In the mornings, when she’s grouchy and doesn’t feel like getting out of bed, I say ‘Cool Classics! is today.’ That changes her mind.” – Henry Anderson

“Even though I accompanied my son on some of the field trips, and listened to him when he would come home and share his excitement about an art gallery, ethnic restaurants, drama and theater, I came to realize that Cool Classics! was more than exciting trips and a fun literacy class. Cool Classics! is an excellent opportunity for our kids to be exposed to and motivated to pursue avenues that ignite their potential to be what they were meant to be through various art forms while developing their literacy skills.” – Gabryel’s mother

“A pesar de que acompañé a mi hijo en algunos de los viajes escolares, y lo escuche cuando él llegaba a casa y compartía su entusiasmo por una galería de arte, restaurantes étnicos, el drama y el teatro, me di cuenta de que ¡Cool Classics! era más que excursiones divertidas y una clase divertida de alfabetización. ¡Cool Classics! es una excelente oportunidad para que nuestros niños sean expuestos y motivados a buscar vías que enciendan su potencial de ser lo que estaban destinados a ser a través de distintas formas artísticas mientras desarrollan las competencias básicas de alfabetización.” – Madre de Gabryel

“I decided to take a look at the Cool Classics! website. I was so amazed at all the wonderful emotions that the kids were showing with your staff. It was just like another day with family. …It takes a village to raise a child these days and I’m very grateful for Cool Classics!’ village. Not only does this program teach children reading, it shows students how to use their imagination & enjoy doing so.” – Pamela McCormick

“Participating in the program had a profound effect on our daughter, Vera. When I asked her what she thought about the program she said, ‘It was so great I can’t even tell you.'” – Janice Cody

“My child learned to be a leader and more focused I would like to thank the teachers for their great effort of communication with parents and students.” – 2012 Parent Survey from Till

“They learned to act out the characters when reading a story and to change their voice according to the characters. My opinion is that there is nothing left to be desired when one has a person who is very efficient, prepared, and does their job with love and patience. Well, we greatly appreciate having these programs for the kids and hope the programs continue. Many Thanks. ” – Yudi M Diaz

”Aprenden cuando lee un cuento a hacer los personajes, con los cambios de voz según el personaje. Para mi no le falta nada ya que cuenta con una persona muy eficiente y preparada, que hace su trabajo con amor y paciencia. Pues nada mas agradecer por tener estos programas para los niños y que así sigan. Muchas Gracias.” – Yudi M Diaz

“I just thought Cool Classics! was some afterschool program where the kids played all day, but they were actually learning and having fun. It opened her eyes to a lot of things. I already told my kids that they don’t need to worry about next year, they’re already signed up!” – Joseph O’Neal

“My daughter had a boost in her reading abilities. We were afraid that since we don’t speak English at home, she would not do well in the program. She didn’t read before she was in the program, but now she’s reading a chapter book every day. It helped inspire her love for reading. She would come home excited to read a new book. Now every Sunday we spend two hours at the Chicago public library so she can find new books to read for the week. We are there so often, the librarian knows our name! Cool Classics! helped a lot.” – Anisoara Serban