Nick Visits Meriden Middle School Most Avid Readers

Nick Cannon made his way down the staircase to thunderous applause as hundreds of students and their families lined the main hallway of Lincoln Middle School Wednesday.

The TV celebrity stopped by the school to autograph copies of his book, “Neon Aliens Ate My Homework and Other Poems.” The event was part of the school system’s annual Million Word Reader celebration that lauds elementary and middle school students who have read at least 1 million words or for 3,000 minutes over the course of the school year.

The initial celebration was held earlier this month, but Cannon’s appearance was postponed due to delays in his filming schedule while working on a movie directed by Spike Lee.

He made up for it by stopping in the Silver City Wednesday.

“It’s a pleasure to be here, thanks for having me,” he told faculty and administrators prior to signing books for the students.

Cannon is well known as the host of “America’s Got Talent,” and has been involved in many projects over the years. He starred in the 2002 film “Drumline,” hosted “The Nick Cannon Show” in 2002-03 and “Wild ‘N Out” on MTV, and has released a number of hip-hop albums.

When Cannon couldn’t make it on June 11 for the celebration, he sent a video in which he congratulated the students and promised to come back later in the month. In the beginning however, he mispronounced “Meriden,” something that School Superintendent Mark D. Benigni addressed Wednesday.

“Nick got some bad information!” Benigni said, explaining that apparently Cannon questioned how to pronounce the city name, and an associate assumed it was like Meridian, Idaho.

The issue was quickly forgotten, however, by those gathered to meet the star.

Mary Lou Woods, a Southington resident and district math specialist in Meriden, said she and her son Larry were “excited” to get their books signed by Cannon.

“He’s just so dynamic in general,” Woods said. “It’s exciting to have a celebrity of this caliber here in Meriden, especially to celebrate all of these students who have achieved quite an accomplishment.”

The Million Word Readers celebration is organized annually by the school system’s Family-School Liaison department, with author visits and copies of their books provided by Middletown-based R.J. Julia Booksellers.

In addition to Cannon, authors Michael Northrop, who wrote the “TombQuest” series; Lauren Tarshis, who wrote the “I Survived” series; and Jeffrey Salane, who penned the “Lawless” series, visited to sign copies of their books at the original celebration on June 11.

Students Wednesday largely recognized Cannon from his work on “America’s Got Talent,” but enjoyed his book of poetry as well.

Danika Smith, 11, and her sister Dayna, 9, were among those who had copies signed.

“It was really cool,” Danika said. “He’s funny.” Dayna added that she thought the experience was “awesome.” Both picked “Church Lady’s Bottom” as their favorite among the poems in Cannon’s book, laughing at the name as they said it. For his part, Cannon said that he was glad to have the chance to get students reading.

“Youth literacy has always been important to me,” Cannon said. “It’s something that helped me along. I had learning disabilities as a kid, and being creative, writing poetry helped me get focused. It’s cool to give back.”