JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Dozens of energetic children, along with staff at the Cody Child Development Center on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, welcomed a few special guests to their classrooms April 24 as an extended celebration of Monday's Earth Day.

JBM-HH Commander, Col. Fern O. Sumpter; Command Sgt. Maj. Earlene Y. Lavender; Headquarters Command Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Mark R. Biehl; Executive Officer Capt. Stardust Demery; Command Sgt. Maj. Richard D. Jessup; Director of Environmental Management Richard P. Lafreniere and DEM Water Program Manager Wanda Gooden visited the CDC to read books with environmental-friendly themes.

Sumpter sat on a carpeted floor rug with 16 enthusiastic four- and five-year-old children and their teachers in Strong Beginnings Robins A class. The commander talked with the preschoolers about Earth Day, the environment and fielded questions and comments prior to reading "Meet Chadwick and his Chesapeake Bay Friends," by Priscilla Cummings with illustrations by A.R. Cohen.

"I chose this book because the Chesapeake Bay is extremely important and it's local to us. The children need to know why the Chesapeake Bay is important," said Sumpter. "At their age level, this book really helps them understand why it's important, where their food comes from, what's there and all the wonderful things the bay provides."

Following the reading, Sumpter held a short question-and-answer session with the children, who strained with raised hands for a turn to interact with her.

"I liked the parts of the book when [Sumpter] named all the characters in the story," said Keira Ventura, 5. "I liked Chadwick the crab's friend, Esmeralda the girl crab. We have to clean up the earth so everything living can keep breathing and won't die."

Daniel Ockerman, 5, described Sumpter as "the nice lady who comes to visit and reads books to us ... Today I liked when she read about the crab and the part about meeting the flounder. We have to take care of the earth and pick up the trash so it doesn't go in the drains and in the water where it can kill the fish."

Lavender read "Biscuit's Earth Day Celebration" by Alyssa Satin Capucilli to Strong Beginnings Robins B. At the same time, Jessup interacted with the children, jumped on the floor and encouraged the pre-kindergarteners to bark like the book's main character Biscuit. The children joyfully yelled "woof, woof" with the command sergeants major and were given high-fives from Jessup while Lavender finished the story.

Lavender and Jessup talked with the children about recycling and taking care of the environment. "This was a great opportunity to spend time with these kids. They make us aware of what the future of the planet is all about," said Lavender.

Biehl read "Earth Day, a Ready-to-Read" book to the children in Strong Beginnings Bluejays B, while Demery read "Biscuit's Earth Day Celebration" to Strong Beginnings Bluejays A. They also visited three- and four-year-olds in the Koala's preschool classroom, for a last reading of the book about Biscuits the dog. They also discussed taking care of the environment with the children before and after each book was read.

Biehl and Demery said it was their first time reading at the CDC and they look forward to repeat appearances.

The children presented the group with hand-drawn thank-you cards in appreciation for their visit. "We collect books for our library at DEM and provided several for everyone to choose from," said Gooden.