When the 2019-2020 school year began, Owensboro Public Schools put a distinct emphasis on inviting male leadership in the community to various schools throughout the district to serve as positive role models for students. As many schools throughout Owensboro and Daviess County celebrated Read Across America week, Hager Preschool dedicated the entire month of February to hosting male readers in the classroom.
“We have always tried to emphasize that bc many of our young children don’t have a male role model in their life — they truly thrive on that,” said Hager Preschool Director Sherry Baber. “We have done it a lot, but we haven’t done it for a whole month like we did this year.”
Baber said she asked each of the 11 preschool teachers (10 at Hager and one and the Neblett Center) to invite a minimum of three male community members to visit their rooms to read. She said the teachers were really excited about the idea and within an hour they were already reaching out and making contact.
By the time all of the invites were extended, rather than the 33 men that were invited, over 50 showed up to read to eager preschoolers throughout the month of February. The children were visited by male community members from soccer coaches and pastors to parents and principals.
Baber said the students experienced just as much joy with animated WBKR radio host Chad Benefield creating all of the voices for Little Red Riding Hood as they did the dads who were “a little more quiet and just tickled to be part of their kid’s day.”
Classroom teacher Natasha Staples said the students took pride in having their male family and community members visit.
“We actually had Byron Douglas from Channel 14,” Staples said. “Overall the kids just enjoyed having the male role models in the building. I just think it was a good experience for the kids to see males reading — it’s usually the mamas reading. And it was a good opportunity for the male figures to see everything that goes on in preschool. That they don’t just come here to be babysat — they come here to learn.”
Not only did these 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds have the opportunity to receive the benefits of reading and sharing from men in the community, they were also able to do their part in giving back.
St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter is located on the same street as Hager Preschool so Baber thought raising money for the shelter would be an excellent lesson in caring for the men in the community. She said, in year’s past, they would take a meal to the shelter, but, this year, they felt a drive to provide for a man’s housing and care needs would be far more beneficial than a meal.
“We considered it a male involvement thing to support the men’s shelter and neighborhood involvement as well,” Baber said. “They started with a pretty lofty goal of $500 for one man one bed. They were so excited and so proud of themselves when they raised $1,500.63, which provides for three men. It was just a really good experience for all of them.”
Baber said all of the students in all rooms are going to be rewarded with a snow cone party as a celebration for one and all that contributed. Staples said it was not only an excellent lesson in philanthropy and giving back, but in math as well.
“It was really neat how well it coincided with our male role activity and teaching math,” Staples said. “They came in every day with big handfuls of coins. In math, we sorted and graphed them to see how heavy they were. They [the students] understood that there were men that didn’t have a warm bed to go home to — and that we can do a lot as little people — we can make a big difference in our community.”