Saugus - With an abracadabra and a wave of the wand, a theme of magic spread throughout the Veterans Memorial Elementary School, teleporting young scholars into a world of wizardry and imagination for one enchanted day.

A mix of mysticism and education, conjured up by Ed the Wizard through three 45-minute performances of a learning program entitled, “Reading is Magic,” transformed the elementary school into its very own Hogwarts’ house on Wednesday morning, Oct. 17.

“The students were thrilled,” said Veterans School Principal Uri Harel, adding that the school is trying to provide regular assemblies for the students after losing arts and gym. “The program seemed to truly capture their attention.”

Long-bearded and adorned in fairytale-like garbs, Ed the Wizard captivated an enthusiastic audience with his wealth of illusions and a splash of comedic suspense. But behind each magic trick performed, Ed the Wizard, after educating himself on the finer points of wizardry by scouring through books since his own elementary school days, emphasized the power of reading to his spellbound onlookers from grades 1-5.

“Everything that I do onstage illusion-wise is within the capability of the students,” said Ed Cope, better known as Ed the Wizard, the robe-clad magic man who styles an authentic Rumpelstiltskin-esque beard. “With the ‘Reading is Magic’ program, I hope the kids glean that everything from the performance was learned through reading various books.”

Cultural Council/PTO sponsors
After receiving a grant from the Saugus Cultural Council, Cope approached the Veterans School with his “Reading is Magic” program, which was also co-sponsored by the Veterans Parent-Teacher Organization. The Saugus Cultural Council, a local all-volunteer agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, paid for the first performance, while the Veterans PTO funded the second and third performances, according to PTO member, Stephanie Puracchio.

Inspired, in part, by J.K Rowling’s series of Harry Potter novels, Cope, who resides in Orange, MA, started the reading program nearly eight years ago. This was the wizard’s first journey into the Saugus school system.

“I decided to expand upon my status as an amateur magician by becoming a full-fledged wizard,” said Cope, crediting an extensive collection of magic-oriented books as his main educator in the field of wizardry. “Through the program, kids come away absolutely marveled by the magic that I perform; and they are surprised and impressed that they can also learn the same illusions by reading.”

Books are gateway to knowledge
On average, Ed the Wizard performs two shows a week at schools and library programs as well as at fairs and festivals. But while the theme of magic resonates throughout his presentations, Cope believes books are the gateway to a potpourri of knowledge.

“Anything a kid wants to learn about or actually do in life can be garnered from reading,” said Cope. “Whether it concerns electronics, air craft mechanics, or turning yourself into a chef, it’s all out there in a library, waiting to be discovered.”

The Veterans School principal echoed the same message about the potential wisdom gained from reading.

“Teachers are always imploring that students read more,” said Principal Harel. “But a program like this allows students to listen to someone from a different walk of life talk about the various things you can learn from a book.”

Principal Harel did have one slight concern about Ed the Wizard’s exhibition of trickery and slight of hand.

“Although I haven’t seen students practicing any magic yet, I’m sure they will try to make my car disappear very soon,” he joked.
Abracadabra . . . reading is magic!
By By Brian Filipiak/
Mon Oct 29, 2007, 09:18 AM EDT