Community leaders, soldiers, moms and dads, as well as business owners and employees volunteered Thursday and Friday to visit Liberty County schools so students could see someone other than their teachers show enthusiasm for reading.
On Friday, Margaret Vanhouten, who works for Mitsubishi Power Systems, and Ulysses Roberts, who works for Georgia Power, visited Joseph Martin Elementary School’s kindergarten classes as part Read Across Liberty.
Roberts was welcomed warmly by Felecia Thomas’students. As he sat near the door, the children gathered, sitting on the floor with their legs crossed, elbows resting on knees.
“This book is called, “Nobody wants to see your finger up your nose,” Roberts said, grinning as he first saw the title. “Obviously, this is a book about manners.”
He began reading, inflecting his voice to emphasize emotions in the text or call attention to the message. Every few minutes, he turned the large-print book around so the children could see the drawing accompanying the story on that page. He then asked questions about what he’d read, comparing it to the picture.
Across the hall, Vanhouten sat in a chair in the far corner, with the children gather around her. Kindergarten teacher Samantha Smith sat at a desk behind her students to spark participation in the reading and ensure respect to the guest.
Sometimes, Vanhouten paused to explain words probably not heard too often by 5-year-olds, like “procrastination” and “echinacea.”
“Yesterday, we had a soldier from Fort Stewart reading for our children,” media specialist Elaine Walker said. “The book he was reading talked a lot about elevators, and you know, a lot of children in Liberty County haven’t seen an elevator unless they’ve been in a hospital or government building.”
Walker said Liberty County United Way contacted her school about scheduling volunteers to read to their kindergarten through 3rd grade classes. She said each child in the classes gets a free copy of the book that’s read.
Read Across Liberty is also organized by the Liberty County Kiwanis Club. It was one of many activities that celebrated Georgia Cities Week, Walker said.
“I think it’s good for the children to have an adult from the community to read them,” she said. “It shows them how important it is for them to read. Children need to see adults wanting to read. Reading is a life-long skill. You’ve got to be able to read to do just about everything.”
Walker said she leads a summer reading program to encourage children to read when they’re not in school.
“We really appreciate the community coming in here to read to the children,” Walker said. “It’s really important.”