HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Dressed the part with her red and white tutu and painted nose, Sgt. 1st Class Jewell Loving was prepared to read Dr. Seuss to the group of pre-K students at Morris P-8 that were waiting eagerly to receive their red-and-white striped hats from her. As she handed them out, they started chanting "Cat in the Hat! Cat in the Hat!" Obviously, this was going to be a fun day.

"This was such a rewarding experience for me, to give back to the community and bring smiles to the children's faces. For me it was entertaining, they were just so excited," she said.

On March 2, Dr. Seuss's birthday, 27 Army Contracting Command Soldiers and civilian employees read at Morris P-8, ACC's local adopted school, as part of Read Across America Week. This was the most volunteers ACC has had in the five years it has participated in the program. In 2017, there were nineteen readers. That's an increase of 42 percent.

"Read Across America is a celebration of reading for our students. The partnership that we have with the Army is a great collaboration and our students love the excitement of [them] reading to our classrooms," said Stephanie Varner, the Morris P-8 reading specialist. "We are truly grateful for this partnership and we look forward to seeing our military in this atmosphere of learning for this day."

Many of the volunteers are returning from previous years, but there were many new volunteers as well. The new volunteers saw how special the day was, and they are ready to commit again.

Rebecca Williams, a procurement analyst and new volunteer, had a great time reading and is ready to do it again, knowing the value that this small gesture could make in the long run for these students.

"Keep me on the list, anytime," she said. "It's Dr. Seuss who said 'It doesn't matter what it is. What matters is what it will become.'"

Maj. Rontario Hicks, deputy G4, was a return reader. He read to a kindergarten class that was very interested in not only what he was reading but also the fact that he was military. He ended by telling them that if they wanted a job like his, the most important thing to do was keep learning. He then exited the room with a round of high fives to the sound of high-pitched cheers.

A few readers may take this experience and continue. Tammy Balch, who works in the Contracting Operations directorate, already volunteers regularly with the school. Loving, who is ACC's sexual assault response coordinator/program manager, said that after this experience, she might as well.

"I had a blast and am thinking about volunteering to help with the Pre-K kids," Loving said. "Since my own children are grown, it really filled a void in my heart."