Students and faculty at Fort Belvoir Elementary School recently welcomed back its "Leaders as Readers" program - an effort which Soldiers team up with children to further develop their reading skills.

Under the direction of reading teacher and program coordinator Mattie Fallon, Soldiers meet with students individually and listen to them read books selected by their teachers. While the program is a favorite among teachers and students, a recent outing also found the Soldiers singing the highest of praises.

"This is my third time doing this and I absolutely love coming here and spending time with the kids," said Lt. Col. Carmen Figueroa, a member of Belvoir's Headquarters Battalion and one of several recent volunteers. "Reading makes us all feel good and these kids are doing a great job."

Staff Sgt. Clayton Fobbs, another member of the battalion, couldn't agree more. Paired with first-grader Alexander Legeer, Fobbs not only offered his young friend a tremendous amount of encouragement, but some very important advice.

"Don't feel nervous. Just take your time and you'll be fine. I know you can do it," Fobbs said with a smile while listening to Legeer read. "We can identify certain words together and that will make it even easier. Let's do this together, okay Alex'"

Legeer agreed and, before going back to class, wound up reading three different books to Fobbs. The two celebrated with a high five.

"The one-on-one time helps children in need of extra support and makes them more comfortable, as opposed to reading in front of a classroom," Fallon said. "The program has helped kids enhance their comprehension and that's always a positive. We're proud of all our kids and, of course, all the Soldiers who volunteer and help us out each year."

Fallon said "Leaders as Readers" was born out of an older program called, "Patriotic Readers Day," where Soldiers would come to the school and read to an entire class.

To allow for one-on-one interaction, Fallon said the program was changed to its current format three years ago and that test scores have improved across the board in grades 1 through 3.

Page last updated Fri November 28th, 2008 at 08:30