ALLEN — The halls of Allen Elementary School were filled with children Friday morning, but instead of them bustling from one class to the next, they were sitting and reading.
“Long, long ago, before there were words, animals roamed in bountiful herds,” second-grader Jade Huff read out loud.
Huff and her classmates were reading from the book, “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm,” by actor and producer LeVar Burton, known for shows such as “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Reading Rainbow.”
“Lost in the thundering, no time for wondering, chaos and lightening, fury so frightening,” read Amelia Niegowski.
In the wake of September’s Cascade Mall shooting, Burton and his RRkidz organization — the home of Reading Rainbow — donated about 1,400 copies of the book to students in the Burlington-Edison School District.
“It was a scary thing for some of our families,” Allen Elementary School Principal Steve Finch said of the shooting.
Burton’s book deals with loss and grief — and how to move on.
“Our children live in a world much more complex and dangerous than the one in which we ourselves grew up,” Burton said through a representative. “A world of shootings, bombings, and natural disasters of every variety; and it’s impossible for children to escape repeated exposure to these tragedies from an incessant 24-hour news cycle.”
Burton said he wanted to help make “difficult issues more approachable for youngsters.”
“For my first children’s book, I wanted to offer up a way for children to learn how to live in a world where bad things seem to happen to good people,” he writes on the book’s inside cover.
Every student in kindergarten through the third grade at the school district’s five elementary schools received a copy of the book.
“The Burlington-Edison School District was touched and deeply appreciative of this kind and thoughtful donation,” Superintendent Laurel Browning wrote in a letter to parents.
At Allen Elementary School, teachers read the book to their students in the morning before the students lined up in the halls to receive their copies.
Some students became overwhelmed with emotion when they learned the book their teachers had just read to them was now their own.
Finch said he was confident the kids would go home and share the book with their parents. It’s not just useful for dealing with tragedy in the wake of the shooting, he said, but all anxiety-causing events.
“For us to create an event like this is community building,” Finch said. “The idea of doing it all together was to send a message to our kids and say to them: ‘We’re all in this together.’”