ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Soldiers from the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command joined other units from Aberdeen Proving Ground in supporting multiple reading events at local schools.
Elementary schools across the nation celebrated 'Read Across America' during the month of March which "calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading" and recognizes children's author, Dr. Seuss, whose birthday is March 2.
These events allow Soldiers to partner with schools in their local communities and support children and teachers in their pursuit of education. The 20th Soldiers read to students from both Roye-Williams and Churchville Elementary Schools here in Harford County.
"Our partnership with the surrounding community to promote literacy and demonstrate our commitment to education is paramount," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mazie Benefield, CBRN technician for the Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Team (WCT) 4 and native of Brookhaven, Mississippi. "I'm always honored to be able to represent the command and the Army in support of something so important."
Other participants agreed with Benefield on the importance of volunteering and reading to children.
"These events, in particular, give Soldiers a chance to be personable with others and take time to care for others on purpose," explained Lt. Col. Donna Simms, 20th CBRNE Command Assistant Chief of Staff, Budget (G8), who hails from Hamlet, North Carolina. "Soldiers should volunteer because it actually boosts morale.
"Reading takes you on a journey," continued Simms. "Kids are full of imagination and if we start sharing the joy of reading when their imaginations are so strong this helps them to learn to love reading without them knowing it."
According to the National Education Association (NEA), the sponsor for 'Read Across America', the more young children are read to, the greater their interest in mastering reading. Reading out loud exposes children to proper grammar and phrasing. It enhances the development of their spoken language skills, their ability to express themselves verbally, and children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.
Simms was excited to read a book that she wrote for her children when they were young.
"I read 'The Magic of the Old Oak Tree' because it is a book that I wrote for my sons. The book is a collection of bedtime stories I told when they were in elementary and middle school," shared Simms. "I hoped the children would love the book the same way my sons did when they were little when I originally told them the stories.
"When I asked the children to sing the song with me from the book they did, also when I asked the kids to try to imagine something special, they did and were happy to tell me about it."
While the Soldiers understand the benefits of reading to students, they also enjoyed their time at the schools.
"It was my chance to show support for our teachers and the challenging job they have," said Benefield. "It was also an opportunity to show them a different side of Soldiers than what they may hear about or see on TV.
"One of the students asked me how long I had been in and what I did for the Army so it was a great time to promote the Army as a potential career option and share how good the Army has been to me and my Family."
All of the Soldiers had a great time reading at the schools and the students appreciated their time with the Soldiers, as well.
"My experience with the kids was wonderful, they listened intently as I read two books and afterwards I was given thank you notes from the students," shared Benefield.