By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterOctober 26, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Reading is fundamental when it comes to education, and an Army program wants to promote an early start in literacy to give children a leg up when it comes to education.
The Military Child Education Coalition Parent to Parent program hosted a Tell Me A Story event Oct. 22 at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence Headquarters where families were treated to a book reading by Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory M. Chambers, command sergeant major of the Aviation Branch.
"This event emphasizes the importance of early literacy for all families and all children," said Heather Dunton, Parent to Parent team lead. "Our motto is 'From birth to third grade, you're learning to read; from third grade on up, you're reading to learn.' Literacy is the foundation of education, so this just emphasizes the importance for families to read every day to their children."
The book chosen for this event was "Verdi," by Janell Cannon, and tells the story of a snake that doesn't want to grow up and change its colors. Dunton said the story resonates with military children because their lives are constantly changing through moves and deployment situations, so this is a way for children to relate and cope with change.
"[Verdi] wants to stay the same color, so he kind of resists the change, but eventually, after doing many things to try to avoid the changes, he finds out that he can't avoid the change, so then later learns to embrace that change," she said. "We figured that really applies to military children because sometimes they resist changes in their lives that they still have to deal with, but they hopefully they learn how to embrace those changes eventually."
Chambers said the book, which is a story his family is familiar with, teaches a great lesson about life and learning to be comfortable in one's own skin. He also shared personal accounts and stories about how reading helped him through many challenges throughout life to help him become the leader he is today.
"Growing up as a kid, I was dyslexic, so one of the best ways to try to combat my dyslexia is to read," he said during the story time. "If you know anything about dyslexia, you see things backwards, letters and what not, so it really slows your reading down, and the best way to get better at it is to read more.
"I really didn't start reading more until I got into the Army and I started reading a lot of books while I was in the field, and it really made me a lot better at literacy, so I love to read," he continued. "I think reading is very important for our young kids because it does help their vocabulary and helps with their literacy, and helps in all kinds of ways."
Following the reading, families were divided into groups to discuss the lessons learned throughout the book, as well as take part in activities and crafts, such as creating their own snakes out of paper and different colored pasta.
For Jennifer Hale, military spouse who came out with her three children, the event was a fun, interactive way for her to be able to share a love of reading with her children.
"We love reading books and we love anything that promotes reading, and especially drawing in our command to get involved and make an impression on the kids -- it was really nice," she said. "I think this was very well organized and I love the inspiration that these ladies (with Parent to Parent) are showing, and the organization is just fantastic. It's just fantastic to have this kind of support and this kind of opportunity for these kids."
Building those opportunities and making sure children are first is what Dunton said the organization is aiming to do.
"We just want to show that reading is fun and it's the foundation of education, so we want to make it fun," she said. "We want (the children) to take these stories to heart and apply them to their lives, and maybe it might help them with challenges in their life."