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Event gets adults to read to students
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Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas reads Encyclopedia Brown by Donald Sobol to Terry Houtkoopers 1st grade class at Fort Stewarts Brittin Elementary School Friday morning as part of Read Across Georgia. Thomas, a retired Army officer and DoD civilian, said Brittin was one of the schools he built while serving as a project engineer. - photo by Photo by Randy C. Murray

One of the Kiwanis Club’s objectives is to encourage people around the world to read, and with thanks to 157 volunteers, 168 early childhood classes were treated to guest readers Thursday and Friday.
Readers from the community visited pre-K through third-grade classes at Liberty County primary schools, Fort Stewart schools and the First United Methodist Church Preschool as part of the sixth-annual Read Across Liberty event.
“It not only talks about literacy, but it also talks about community involvement, and that’s why we have professional adults take time out of their day to visit these children,” said Jennifer Darsey, director of the United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty County office and a member of the Kiwanis Club of Liberty County. “It lets children know it’s more than their parents and more than their teachers who they see on a daily basis, there are more adults that care about them.”
The groups work together to coordinate the event and gather the 2,675 books that were given to students this year. The gifts are aimed at reinforcing reading skills at home.
While most readers read the “Magnificent Monarchs” about the life cycle of monarch butterflies, students took home an assortment of titles.
“We had lots of books, from Judy Moody to Judy Blume to ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie’ … lots of Disney character books and princess books and a veritable cornucopia of topics,” Darsey said. This year, the group also handed out about 800 science-oriented books.  
Early childhood literacy is a year-round mission for the Kiwanis Club, which also has monthly “read a book, give a book” events at the Liberty County Pre-K Center. The club gives about 800 books a year to provide students with at-home reading material and reinforce reading’s value.  
Having volunteers from different professional backgrounds and business sectors demonstrates that reading is essential to success of any type, Darsey said.
“Readers are leaders, and early readers are leaders,” Darsey added.
Among the volunteers was Hinesville Police Department recruit Chris Akers, who read in several Taylors Creek classrooms as a way for the city to build connections to the community during Georgia Cities Week.
Students in the second-grade classes weighed in while Akers read, and teacher Donna Holmes explained that they just completed a unit on the life cycle of a caterpillar.
In Holmes’ class, student Indika Odom said it’s “cool and awesome.”
“Because instead of reading boring books, every time a reader comes in, we read good books,” Indika said.
“So we have boring books? What about ‘Skinny Bones’?” Holmes asked him.
The students erupted in excitement, yelling out their favorite parts of the book and naming other titles they enjoyed, including “Socks.”
A reader also visited students in LaPortia Pitts’ second-grade class.
“I think it reinforces the things that we have learned. It was perfect timing; we just ended our unit on the butterfly life cycle, and it helps them apply it to the outside world,” Pitts said.

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