Author, illustrator help celebrate school’s anniversary

Damien Costello, 7, of Stephens City, shows his enthusiasm during the assembly Wednesday morning at Bass-Hoover Elementary School in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – In honor of Bass-Hoover Elementary School’s 40th anniversary, local author Jay Foreman and illustrator Mark Sasser, both alumni of the school, read their new book, “Benny the Bearded Bumble Bee,” to a crowd of cheering students.

“To a kid, 40 years old is like death,” Principal Joseph Strong joked when announcing the 40th anniversary.

During the assembly, Strong showed a slideshow of other events that took place 40 years ago when the school first opened. Among them were the launch of TV shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Saturday Night Life,”  the release of the movie “Jaws”  and the construction of Space Mountain at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

“We are so excited to be here,” Foreman said. “This is where we developed our love of reading.”

“Benny the Bearded Bumble Bee” is the seventh book Foreman and Sasser have worked on together and Wednesday was their third time speaking at the school.

Bass Hoover Elementary School alumni author Jay Foreman, right, shows one of his books to students inside the gymnasium of Bass-Hoover Elementary School in Stephens City on Wednesday while illustrator Mark Sasser, left, looks on. The pair were there to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the school and to challenge students to read 40 books this year. Rich Cooley/Daily

Before reading their new book, the duo talked to the students about why it’s important to read.

“Reading makes you smarter,” Foreman said, “Reading can help you with every subject in school.”

They read their book to promote the school’s Read 40 initiative, which challenges each classroom to read 40 books this year.

“The library is one of the greatest inventions of mankind,” Foreman said.

The team kept the reading interactive. Volunteers from the crowd were asked to create the voices of the characters. When Foreman was reading, he impersonated the voices.

Bass Hoover Elementary School alumni author Jay Foreman, center, and illustrator Mark Sasser, right, speak to students inside the gymnasium at Bass-Hoover Elementary School on Wednesday. The pair graduated from the school in 1983 and returned to share the joy of reading to students and a challenge to read 40 books this year. Rich Cooley/Daily

At the close of the reading, a student dared Sasser to eat mayonnaise, which he happily did to entertain the students.

Sasser and Foreman left order forms for their books with teachers so that students could purchase the new book. The duo also agreed to autograph the books and will send all proceeds back to the school.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com