By Emily Brainard, Army Flier StaffApril 8, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker Elementary School second and third graders followed the adventures of the fictional Thumbs Up Johnnie with the help of garrison command and Picerne Military Housing members April 5.
Picerne staff partnered with Deputy Garrison Commander Justin Mitchell to read the tale "The Adventures of Thumbs Up Johnnie: Johnnie Finds a Buddy," about finding friendship to the youngsters.
"I love to read to kids," Mitchell said. "You can see the anticipation in their eyes and it makes my whole day."
The first-of-its-kind reading event was held in honor of the Month of the Military Child, according to Emily Natalio, Picerne communications specialist.
Natalio said the story was chosen because it details the process of making new acquaintances.
"It relates to what children here go through," she said, noting military children are often uprooted and must make new friends. The company also donated about 130 copies of the book to the school for students to enjoy.
Children attending installation schools are Picerne residents, making the event special to organization staff, said Heath Burleson, Picerne program director.
"We love doing this. (Children) are truly the future. This is one way we can give back to them," he said.
Mitchell and Burleson read to about a dozen students in Kristina Anderson's second grade class.
The instructor said she appreciated the community's involvement in brightening the children's days and said recognizing military youth is important this month.
"It brings awareness that it's not only the Soldiers who make sacrifices," she said.
Mitchell affirmed her feelings, and said quality of life activities like this show support by embracing the Army Family Covenant's promise to take care of Soldiers and their Families.
Killian Matthews, 8, was one of the youth Mitchell read to.
"It was a great book," he said. "It taught me that you should be nice to all the friends you make."
Natalio said the reading day concept came from similar activities Picerne conducted at Fort Riley, Kan., and Fort Polk, La.