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Mall hosts reading program

Joyce Kefalas' (top) class at PS 206 in Rego Park was one of many classes at the school to participate in the Queens Center Mall's Read Aloud program, held early on Tuesdays at the mall or at the school. Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

Most come to the Queens Center Mall to shop, but when students from PS 206 come to the mall Tuesday mornings, they’re there to learn.

For the past few years, the popular mall at 90-15 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst and the school, on 61-02 98th St. in Rego Park, have collaborated on a read-aloud program. From the fall to May, management employees at the mall read books to children from PS 206.

“I love the program,” said Dawn Simon, senior manager of marketing at the Queens Center Mall. “It’s one of my favorite things about my job, just giving back to the community.”

Simon created the program along with Nicholas Bologna, principal of PS 206. Simon has been a participant in the school’s “Principal for a Day” program for the past nine years and decided to increase the collaboration between the mall and the school.

“She wanted to do more for the school than just that one day,” Bologna said.

All grades of students participate in the Read Aloud Program. Employees who work in either the management of the mall or the security for the mall visit the school to read for grades K to 2, but the children in grades 3 to 5 take a trip to the mall to hear the mall employee read in the common area on the second floor. A couple of classes arrive each Tuesday at 10 a.m.

“It’s a good experience for the children,” Bologna said. “They love listening to other people read the story.”

Jeff Owen, the senior property manager at Queens Center Mall, said the books are chosen by the teachers, along with some talking points about the story. Every once in awhile while reading the story, the reader will stop and ask the students questions.

“[The students] will not hesitate to ask questions, to give their opinions on the stories,” Owen said. “A lot of times there’s many children with their hands up.”

The Applebee’s restaurant in the mall is also a partner in the program. It donates a small pack of crayons, a placemat with activities and games on it and a healthy snack to the students.

Owen said the students enjoy the program and like seeing a different face, voice and perspective.

“The children are just so excited to be here,” Simon said. “They’re as excited as we are about having them here.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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