HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Looking up from the mat on the floor, Ed Worley could not only see the words to "Fox in Socks" but he could also see the tiny faces of twenty first-graders surrounding him. Whether they were more entertained by the book or the fact that he was on their level, one thing was certain: he had their attention.

And that was just what Stephanie Varner liked to see.

"This year, our goal is to read 100,000 books by the end of the year. We have popcorn parties and slushy days to make it fun, and they will have a day at the skating rink if they reach the goal," said Varner, the Louis J. Morris Elementary reading coach.

"They love reading-- the school is already at 40,000 books in March! I know these children and they will reach their goal," Varner said.

On March 2, Dr. Seuss's birthday, nineteen Army Contracting Command employees read at Morris Elementary, which is its local adopted school, as part of Read Across America Week. This is the most volunteers that ACC has had in the four years that it has participated in this program.

Many of the volunteers are returning from previous years, and they come back because they see the joy on the children's faces.

"The children enjoy it so much, they get into it. They participate and it's wonderful," said Patricia Hill, a human resource specialist at ACC. "They ask questions and really interact."

Hill enjoys Read Across America so much, she volunteered on a day of leave.

"I'm going this afternoon to my grandson's school, so I figured I'd come [to Morris] this morning too.
It's great to see kids so interested in reading!" she said.

Many of the Soldiers were asked questions not just about their education but also about their jobs, and some children even said they wanted to be in the Army.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bernard Smalls, of the Expeditionary Contracting Command, read to a kindergarten class. He was all smiles when he heard of their interest in the military, and the reading ended with a round of high fives.

But his biggest advice? "Stay in school and read, read, read!"