FORT BRAGG, N.C. - It's not often McNair Elementary School students have the opportunity to put aside fractions in favor of stories about sea creatures.

On March 18, the children were treated to an entire day devoted to reading. This marked the fourth year that the school has held Read Across McNair Day, which is a celebration of Reading Month.

"We invited community leaders to come in and read some of their favorite books," said Dr. Carolyn Carr, the school's principal. "We hope that the kids can see the passion that adults still have for reading. Maybe that will encourage them to develop a love for it."

About 30 readers volunteered their time to visit the school and read to the pre-K through fourth graders.

"I've done this several times," explained Officer Stacy Swinton, from the Fayetteville Police Department. "It's an honor to be able to touch the lives of these children and to help prepare them for the future."

Swinton, an Army veteran, serves as the homeless project officer with the police department. She decided to teach the children at the school that homeless children need friends and support, too. Her book of choice was "Voyage to Shelter Cove," which told the plight of several homeless sea creatures and their journey to find comfort and stability.

"I wanted to use this chance to show children that homeless people, especially homeless children, are just like you and me," Swinton explained.

The police officer of nine years then gave the children an opportunity to ask questions about the book, the homeless and being a cop.

"I know from my experience that the kids usually seem more interested in me being a police officer than what books I read," Swinton said. "But if I can teach them anything, then I feel pretty good."

And that's what Carr said the goal for the day centered on - teaching.
"The readers aren't just here to read; they are co-teachers today," the principal added. "They are adding to our everyday mission of helping these children improve their reading comprehension and problem-solving skills."

However, Dr. Harriet Boykin, the assistant superintendent for the North Carolina district of Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools, said that the task of encouraging children to read has become difficult.

Kids today have video games and movies to keep them entertained, but Boykin hopes that Read Across McNair Day proves to kids that books can also be a source of adventure and fun.

"Our job today is to pick books that are interesting and relevant to children. We want them to be encouraged to not only read because they have to at school but because they want to," said Boykin, who has been an educator since 1972.