Bearing with the kids

A third grade mob jumped ICS principal Laurent Ditmann last week on the asphalt strip behind the cafeteria. Shouting "Whoa!" and "Bear hug!", the 8- and 9-year-olds descended from all sides, hugging, high-fiving, and nearly knocking him down. Witnesses claimed the victim was "asking for it."

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A third grade mob jumped ICS principal Laurent Ditmann last week on the asphalt strip behind the cafeteria. Shouting "Whoa!" and "Bear hug!", the 8- and 9-year-olds descended from all sides, hugging, high-fiving, and nearly knocking him down. Witnesses claimed the victim was "asking for it."

Dr. Ditmann, a onetime professor of French literature and natty dresser par excellence, wore a man-sized bear-suit in celebration of Jumpstart Read for the Record Day, a national effort to raise literacy awareness. On Oct. 2, kids across the nation listened to the story of "Corduroy," Don Freeman's classic 1968 children's book about a toy bear.All over ICS on Monday, students gathered to hear the story. Teacher Michael Sanders hammed up his reading, giving the characters voices and imitating their facial expressions.

His third-grade audience was engrossed; at the end, Bill and nearly all his classmates admitted to having favorite stuffed animals.

"It's OK if you do," Mr. Sanders said, "I know I have one at home."

As each class heard the story, Ditmann made the rounds, introducing himself as Corduroy's cousin. In Kindergarten he was greeted by shrieks - most of excitement, some of actual worry. Second graders were a tougher crowd. Ditmann showed off his claws.

"If you're really a bear, why do you have skin?" one young inquisitor challenged. "I'm not afraid of you!"

The bear-suit, the latest in a series of costumes for school celebrations, was the creation of Ditmann's wife, Mary Johnson.

"If you like that," remarked EIP (Early Intervention Program) math teacher Lynn Randolph wryly, as Ditmann shuffled down the hall to his next appearance, "you ought to see his fairy outfit."

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