FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Colonel Stephen Sicinski's love of books began in boyhood. As the current garrison commander of Fort Bragg, Sicinski still enjoys a good read.

On Nov. 19, he spoke to students and teachers at Butner Elementary School, stressing the importance of doing well in school - particularly as it relates to reading.

"When you get that relationship with books early on in your life like you guys are right now, you find that it turns into a lifelong habit," said Sicinski. He shared the story of visiting his grandmother and exploring her library one book at a time, in an age before inventions like cable television, Playstations and the Internet.

"If you establish that habit (reading) now, it will serve you well as you grow older and find your place in life," Sicinski added.

According to Sicinski, knowledge equals power. In the land of opportunity, he said students are fortunate to live in this place and time, even as their parents deploy to various parts of the world.

"Here in this country nobody cares what you look like, nobody cares where you came from, all they care about is what you can do and the quality of your character," said Sicinski.

Each Fort Bragg school has chosen two academic goals. At Butner Elementary, these goals center around problem solving (math) and reading comprehension.

"We saw there was a need to improve reading comprehension," said Priscilla Joiner, principal of Butner Elementary.

"Our vision is excellence. I thought the garrison commander did a fantastic job of stressing the importance of education," she added.

Joiner talked about the staff's dedication to promoting a positive atmosphere of learning - one in which the kids are empowered to explore and discover the world around them.

Chris Jestes, the school's educational technologist, agreed. "The whole idea of them sitting in five rows with five kids is kind of outdated. We keep them up and moving quite a bit during the day, especially during the reading-language block." Jestes traced his childhood love of books to the J.R.R. Tolkien "Lord of the Rings" series. Those stories put an end to free time, according to Jestes, who now carries a book wherever he goes. He even reads in the lunch line at school, hoping that it will become a favorite pastime for students as well.

Butner Elementary School's teachers and staff have a "comforting" environment for kids to read in the classroom which includes Reading Counts. The ultimate goal is to fashion an environment where reading is a natural part of growing up.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16