FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- A mind is a terrible thing to waste. What better way to stimulate young minds than to read'

Col. Mark Lindon, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Force Management Support Agency, volunteered to read to about 180 Fort Belvoir Elementary School students Jan. 27. The school was participating in National Mentorship Month.

Originally, reading to students was Headquarters Battalion's way of participating in the Partners in Education program. Lindon initiated the Patriotic Reader Program a few years ago, and agreed to participate this year as a mentor.

"As a child, I loved to read. You could always find me under the covers with a flashlight in one hand and a book in the other. I value reading. It's important to teach children to read and instill in them how valuable it is," Lindon said.

To help instill the importance of reading, Belvoir Elementary held a mock Caldecott Medal competition. Books in the Caldecott competition are judged on their illustrations.

According to the American Library Association, the Caldecott Medal was named in honor of 19th-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Lindon read "The Curious Garden" by Peter Brown to groups of second-graders. The book was an entry for the award. Second-graders read other entries in their classes to hold a mock contest and voted for which book they thought should win.

Lindon asked the class questions about the book as he read. All the students raised their hands excitedly to tell him what pruning meant. A word they learned from the illustration.

"Having volunteers come in and read shows students that adults around them read. Students usually have female teachers, and it's important for them to see both men and women read. Students can see reading is something boys do, as well. Bringing someone new into the class gets their attention, and gives them a new way to learn," said FBES reading teacher Linda Vinson.

The month-long outreach campaign the school participated in focused national attention on the need for mentors, as well as how everyone can work together to increase the number of mentors and assure brighter futures for younger generations.