Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn judge returns to her roots each year for Read Across America

March 8, 2019 By Rob Abruzzese
From left: Laura K. Ashikaga, Maria Neri, Hon. Sylvia Ash, Hon. Joanne Quinones, Sue Novick Wasko, BWBA President Carrie Anne Cavallo and Joy Thompson. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

For the fifth year in a row, Brooklyn Judge Joanne Quinones returned to her former elementary school, bringing along a team of judges and lawyers from the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association to read to students in celebration of Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

Every year, a group of about 50 kindergarten students and first- and second-graders pile into the library at P.S. 274 in Bushwick, where they split into groups in which Judge Quinones and others read to them. The judges tell the students about their lives and jobs in the court, and keep things fun with goodies — including a Dr. Seuss cake.

20190301_1021041 Members of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association and students from P.S. 274. Photo courtesy of Joanne Quinones
Members of the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association and students from P.S. 274. Photo courtesy of Joanne Quinones

Judge Quinones was joined on this trip by fellow judges Hon. Sylvia Ash and Hon. Nancy Bannon. The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association President Carrie Anne Cavallo was there, as well as BWBA members Derefim Neckles, Laura K. Ashikaga, Maria Neri, Sue Novick Wasko, Natoya McGhie and Joy Thompson.

Hon. Nancy Bannon is one of the regulars who returns each year.
Hon. Nancy Bannon is one of the regulars who returns each year.

Though it’s a different group each year, many BWBA members have a blast doing it, and at least six people returned this year.

“It’s become such a big event that the kids look forward to it each year, the teachers, too, and, of course, our volunteers,” said Judge Quinones. “The repeat volunteers and I found this year’s students to be the liveliest and most excited we’ve ever had.”

BWBA Vice President Derefim Neckles.
BWBA Vice President Derefim Neckles.

Judge Quinones started taking the contingent of BWBA members with her to the school every year after Jaci Flug, the former president of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, asked local women’s bar chapters to do more community service and suggested that Read Across America might be fun and easy to do.

Nobody who knows Judge Quinones would be surprised that she not only took on that task, but exceeded all expectations.

Natoya McGhie, co-chair of the BWBA's Young Lawyers Committee, trying to recruit future members.
Natoya McGhie, co-chair of the BWBA’s Young Lawyers Committee, trying to recruit future members.

“She had no idea that I would go above and beyond and would exert maximal effort in trying to make the day a rewarding and amazing experience for students and volunteers alike,” Quinones said. “The day after our first Read Across America event in 2014, I began planning for the next one.”

Judge Quinones and the volunteers dress up for the event each year, but she takes it a bit further and has a different Dr. Seuss-themed outfit each year.

Hon. Joanne Quinones comes alive reading to the children.
Hon. Joanne Quinones comes alive reading to the children.

“I’m already starting to think about my Dr. Seuss attire for next year,” the judge said. She joked that, “the principal even told me that the teachers have almost as much anticipation as the kids wondering what I will wear next year.”

The teachers at P.S. 264 are not the only ones who recognize the judge’s efforts. Judge Quinones was recently honored by the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York with the Hon. Judith S. Kaye Access to Justice Award and also by the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association itself with the Amy Wren Award.

BWBA President Carrie Anne Cavallo.
BWBA President Carrie Anne Cavallo.

When John F.K. Coffey presented Quinones with the Amy Wren Award, he specifically mentioned her efforts during Read Across America.

“You truly have not seen it all until you have seen Joanne dressed as Thing 1 from Dr. Seuss’ ‘Cat in the Hat,’” Coffey joked at the ceremony this past September.

Laura K. Ashikaga.
Laura K. Ashikaga.

Quinones said that she has already been to Target to look for clothes to wear to next year’s event, and BWBA President Cavallo stressed that Quinones isn’t joking.

“Each year she dresses up as a different Dr. Seuss character and encourages the children to read various Dr. Seuss books,” Cavallo said.

Joy Thompson.
Joy Thompson.

“For Judge Quinones, this is not a one-day event,” the BWBA president added. “Throughout the year she searches high and low for just the right items to fill the children’s goodie bags. I have had the pleasure of participating for the third time this year and to watch Judge Quinones interact with the children is truly heartwarming. She has a special way with these children which embodies the mission of the BWBA.”

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