Read Across America week celebrated locally

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My Views

By Stephen Thomas

    NICHOLS - Recently, many Bullitt County Public Schools celebrated Read Across America Week, an event established to encourage reading.

    Read Across America Week is celebrated in conjunction with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Many schools host events in which students (and teachers) dress as their favorite Seussian character.

    This year Nichols Elementary celebrated by inviting various community dignitaries to the school. The dignitaries read to and discussed reading with students.

    Somehow, the powers-that-be at Nichols considered a cynical journalist among these dignitaries. I was honored and accepted the invitation.

    The school librarian, Phyllis Breuer, informed me that I would be reading to older students. That meant I couldn’t likely read my favorite Dr. Seuss books.

    It wasn’t easy determining what older elementary school students would have an interest in, so I took a lot of books and hoped for the best.

    After a few moments enjoying the school’s breathtaking new interior (following months of construction), I was escorted to Ms. Reverman’s class, a 4th/5th split. I also visited with Ms. Ferrell’s 4th/5th students.

    Young people at this age have many interests, and I lucked out by tapping into one of them: Sports.

    Nichols students seem to be overwhelmingly fascinated by college basketball this time of year, like everyone else. The University of Kentucky fans were in dire straits, however, as both teachers seemed to root for the University of Louisville.

    I showed students some of the sports books I had at home that I jhave read, am currently reading and/or hope to soon find time for. Unfortunately I didn’t have a basketball book with me.

    There were a number of baseball fans that seemed interested in my book about Babe Ruth. Despite retiring in 1935, students today still know about the Bambino’s career (They also understand that he never cheated by using steroids).

    There were some students with an interest in horses and horse racing. I showed and discussed a book about Secretariat.

    A lot of NASCAR and professional wrestling fans showed their interests. I showed them an autobiography by wrestler Bret “Hitman” Hart.

    We also discussed a fondness for music. All students seemed to have a favorite style. I displayed a book about Clarence Clemons, the saxophone player for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

    With all of the books I had, I never actually read anything to the students. Instead, we had nice discussions about reading that even seemed to impress the teachers.

    I learned a few things about the students. One had a relative with Babe Ruth baseball cards, while another’s father played the saxophone in a concert.

    There were also very relevant questions about both reading and writing. One good question I recall inquired where I found all of my books.

    I told the students that some were gifts, but some came from my local library. There are three Bullitt County libraries in Hillview, Mount Washington and Shepherdsville, with a new one opening soon in Lebanon Junction.

    I reminded students that their school librarian would be happy to help them locate books about their favorite subjects. If a certain book was unavailable at school, the librarian could search around for a copy of it.

    We discussed types of books the students liked to read. They showed me mystery books, chapter books and short stories. We discussed biographies and autobiographies, history books and fictional stories from “Twilight” to “Treasure Island.”

    An emphasis I addressed was reading anything, because a book can take you anywhere you’d like to go at anytime (a television takes you where the television wants to take you, plus you have to stay in the same room all the time).

    I informed students that reading wasn’t just something required in school. Reading could be for fun, and if you find the right books you can finish reading them very quickly, no matter how many pages.

    Some books have things that students really enjoy. Then there might be something else in those books, like an unfamiliar word or topic or subject. The students can then ask an adult, go online or find a dictionary and learn what that something is. Then they are learning, often without even realizing it.

    My favorite question of the day was from a young man who asked how we found all of our stories for The Pioneer News. I told him sometimes things just happen and then we write about them as we find out.

    Other times we’re looking for what is happening throughout the community. I mentioned that on many occasions we find out what the schools are doing and we write about them.

    His eyes lit up and he told me he had a good story idea. As a reporter, I’m always open to suggestions.

    The student told me I could write something about coming to Nichols Elementary and talking about reading with the students.

    I thought to myself, “That’s a pretty good idea.”