Reading is like magic, teachers at Hillsborough Elementary School would say. 

You can fall under the spell of a book and get wrapped up in a story, you can unlock knowledge – or power – through reading, and you can use books to help research the remedy to a peculiar potion. 

Hillsborough Elementary School kicked off their annual Read-A-Thon fundraiser on Friday, August 10, with a skit and assembly. This 10-day stretch is a time that students look forward to, with many middle and high school students returning to watch the skit – and their former teachers dress up in capes and costume. 

This Read-A-Thon serves to re-engage children with reading after a summer break and to raise money for school events and supplies throughout the year. 

Students ask for a monetary donation by either pledges for “per minute” or “flat rate” donations. This year, the Hillsborough Elementary School PTA aims to raise $25,000, which will go into the PTA budget to help support funds for yearbooks, class field trips, staff appreciation, Scholastic Book Fair, classroom supplies, and potentially, the large goal to improve the kindergarten and first grade playground. They hope to rework the hillside bench and eliminate erosion to make it a better space for students. 

Each year brings a new theme, though this year’s theme encompasses one of the most cherished young adult fiction series in the world: Harry Potter. Though J.K. Rowling wrote these novels for a younger audience, the story captured those of all ages. This was clear as teachers and students took the stage together, wearing capes as the Harry Potter movie theme song faded in to the auditorium. 

The auditorium curtains first opened to show Principal Christine Kreider, standing at a podium with the emblem of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on the front. 

She told the students that the classes throughout all grades would be sorted into one of four Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin, to compete for the coveted house cup. Students gain points according to the number of minutes they spend reading throughout the week, both at school and at home. Kindergartners also participate, with parents reading to the children to notch minutes. At the end, the house with the most points would be awarded. 

“You are in for a huge treat today and you know what? The other thing you guys are going to be given today is a gift you won’t even realize that you’re getting,” she said. “You’re not even going to realize you got this gift until you are probably about my age and look back and say, ‘This is what it looks like when your parents, and your teachers, and your students all come together for something really exciting and really awesome.’ You guys are in for a big treat.” 

Kreider disappeared and the curtains closed. The familiar intro song filled the room, and students in the audience tried to contain their excitement. 

The curtains opened to reveal Spanish Teacher Rachel Mulock in a witches hat, reading a potion book. 

“Who can tell me the effects of pterodolphin potion? Anyone? Anyone at all?” Mulock asked students in character, much like a line from Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series. “This potion transforms any warm-blooded mammal into a land-walking dolphin,” she continued. “A land-walking dolphin!” 

The audience laughed, knowing their dolphin mascot would have to make an appearance at some point. Students in character as Hogwarts students watched on, as their teacher added silver fennelwart, one eye of a newt, three chicken nuggets and cuddlefish ink. 

Upon dropping the last ingredient into the cauldron, the pot began to boil over, and smoke billowed over and across the stage, with screams of awe filling the auditorium. The potions teacher ran the bucket to right stage, where PE Teacher Chris Walker took the stage and dipped his coffee mug in the mixture and took several big gulps. 

When he tried to speak, he could only speak dolphin, croaking into the microphone, at much amusement to students and teachers alike. He eventually turned into a dolphin and ran on stage in a fuzzy dolphin suit, flapping his fins like wings. 

The teachers ran around trying to capture this crazed dolphin while the students took charge to figure out a remedy to bring their teacher back to normal. 

The students ran to meet with Sierra Richmond, a 5th grade teacher, who told them they were the key to solving the problem – “You’ll always find what you need when you take the time to read.” 

The students pulled books from the shelf, flipping through pages. They came across a remedy to counteract the pterodolphin potion: splash powder. 

In unison, two students recited the key line again: “You’ll always find what you need when you take the time to read.” 

They fed the new potion to the dolphin and he became very sleepy. After a short nap off stage, Walker reemerged healed and back to his human form. 

At the end of the skit, Richmond took the stage to further explain the Read-A-Thon rules and to sort classes into houses.

When she called a house, students in that house stood and cheered, ringing in the week of reading and healthy competition.

Each day has a theme, this year relating to Harry Potter series. Monday is Quidditch day (wear your favorite sports teams colors), Tuesday is a book exchange (use the accio charm to summon books, or drop off books in the morning to be re-sorted and delivered back to classrooms), the next day is Weasley Wednesday, (dress like twins with a friend), Thursday is dress as your favorite book character; and Friday is Free Dobby! day, where students are invited to wear their favorite or funky socks to “show support for house elf liberation.”