80th TC Soldiers celebrate National Read Across America with school children

By Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Breckenkamp | 80th Training Command (TASS) | March 15, 2019

CHESTERFIELD, Va. — In celebration of the National Read Across America Day, 80th Training Command (TASS) Army Reserve Soldiers and Civilians shared their love of reading with Hopkins Road Elementary School children here, in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, on March 1, 2019.

National Read Across America Day is an annual, nationwide event that is part of the Read Across America program, an initiative on reading that was created by the National Education Association. Each year, the National Read Across America Day is celebrated on the school day closest to March 2, in memory of Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The NEA’s Read Across America Day encourages children in communities across the country to read aloud. Thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate by bringing together books, children, teenagers, and volunteer readers.

As the reading specialist at Hopkins for the past 11 years, Mrs. Christy Smith said the school has celebrated the event with approximately 600 pre-school through fifth grade students for as long as she’s been there. The 15-year-veteran of education said that celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday is a great opportunity to teach children not only how to read, but to instill a passion for reading.

Smith said the teachers, staff, and students like to celebrate in a big way by dressing up as characters from their favorite children’s books. Many of them dressed up as characters from Seuss’ popular books, such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Horton Hears a Who,” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” Others dressed up as characters from a variety of children’s books, such as “Mary Poppins,” “Amelia Bedelia,” and “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”

Smith explained that the mission of Dr. Seuss’ celebration and Read Across America Day is to introduce every child to good quality literature. She said it involves more than simply giving them books. She explained that reading aloud to children promotes language comprehension and instills the value of reading.

“We are teaching our students that reading is such a huge part of their everyday lives, especially with electronics becoming so prevalent,” Smith said. “We believe it’s absolutely essential for them to experience reading from adults, especially from adults who are in professions that the kids look up to.”

According to Smith, a large part of their reading success is because of the support the school receives from the children’s families as well as from local communities. Part of this support comes from military men and women who want to give back to the communities.

“Inviting the Soldiers to our school means a lot to not only the kids, but to the parents and teachers as well,” said Smith. “Our kids look up to the Soldiers and see them as role models, and we absolutely love that.”

As the 80th TC Family Programs coordinator, Mrs. Fran Mitchell explained that part of the Family Programs mission is to nurture positive relationships with Soldiers’ families. This includes building partnerships with communities and schools.

“The National Read Across America is a great opportunity to have our Soldiers and Civilians volunteer their time and read to children,” said Mitchell. “It’s wonderful to have our Soldiers in uniform spend time with the children and be engaged with them. I believe this helps our younger generation see that military men and women are a lot like them, that they live in their communities, too.”

Taking time out of a busy schedule to read to the school children meant a lot to Lt. Col. Michael Pauls, the 80th TC full-time chaplain. Pauls believes the Read Across America Day is a great way to motivate school children achieve their full potential.

“I had so much fun reading to the kids,” said Pauls. “I think children who are well-read are more likely to excel, and more likely to pursue their dreams, than children who are not.”

Pauls, a father of three children, believes it’s beneficial for children to interact with service members, since sometimes they may have preconceived ideas when they see people in the military uniform.

“I think that when Soldiers in uniform read to them, it broadens their horizons and shows them there are so many more aspects of being a Soldier than just going to war,” Pauls said. “I hope they see that we are not really all that different from them, that we enjoy reading just like they do.”

Smith hopes the children will take away from this celebration a life-long love for reading. She also hopes they make a connection with reading now and their future achievements.

“We want our kids to see all the benefits of being a life-long reader,” said Smith. “We love having the Soldiers here because they are so intrigued by the uniforms and hearing them talk about what they do in the military. When the kids have Soldiers reading to them, they see the connection between reading and successes in life.”