At the annual Dr. Seuss Reading Party in September 2017, 70 students from Rex Rennert Elementary School each received a surprise gift in their craft bags: a hardbound copy of The Cat in the Hat to take home. Students from instructors Deana Johnson’s and Amy Williams’s service-learning composition courses hosted the entire second grade to help promote early literacy in our community.
“It had been a dream of mine for several years to give students a book of their own to take home, but funding was never available,” said Johnson.
However, a generous gift from Dr. Bill Gash, former UNC Pembroke Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, made that dream come true for Johnson and the students.
“Dr. Gash has always been a champion for literacy, and his gift allowed us to purchase new books to give to each student who participated in the Reading Party,” Johnson explained. “Reading opens up all sorts of possibilities," Gash added, "and I was glad that I could contribute to the project.”
The Reading Party opened with UNCP students leading small group readings of Dr. Seuss favorites. Guided by student leaders, the second graders then rotated through six brand new literacy stations which incorporated art, reading, writing, science, and math. CCE Student Leader for Service-Learning and future teacher Ashley Allen designed and led an outdoor station where students measured sound waves using cups and string.
Local elementary students who attend these events are engaged in reading in innovative ways, and Johnson and Williams believe that these initiatives are beneficial for the UNCP students who serve as mentors as well as the elementary students.
“I think that promoting literacy in our community is one of the most important things that we can do” said Johnson, “and Dr. Gash’s gift allowed us to do this in a tangible way.”