Owensboro Public Schools’ Hager Preschool found such success in their ‘I Love to Read’ celebrations last February that the preschool teachers and Principal Sherry Baber began working on this year’s month-long celebration in mid-January.
Hager Preschool let their community know they were looking for male role model involvement in their planned reading activities.
Last year, teachers were asked to find three men from the district and community, including family members of students at the preschool, to come to the school and read a book with the students.
Baber said that there was an overwhelming response last year for males in the classroom, that this year, she asked each teacher to find five community role models per class.
“The kids get so excited to have these readers,” Baber said. “We even had Santa [as a reader] last year.”
Many of the readers come from Owensboro Public Schools, including their board of education members, central office staff, principals, coaches and athletes.
This year, several OPS personnel have volunteered to read as well as elected officials and officers with the Owensboro Police Department, including the Chief of Police and the Daviess County Sheriff, Keith Cain. Several local news personalities have also accepted requests.
Chequero Cobb, a teacher’s assistant said through her work at the H.L. Neblett Center, said she has a Kentucky Wesleyan College football player, Dracin Williams, who is running for mayor and Hunter Hinton, who works at Cravens Elementary as an intervention specialist and as a detective with Owensboro Police Department as three of the readers for her classroom of students.
Some of the students know these men from being at the Neblett Center, attending the same church or because they know family members who attend Hager.
The diversity of the selected males is not lost on Cobb, who said that is what makes it so unique, since many of the students do not have fathers that are in their lives.
“The kids stand beside them, sit in their lap and hug them,” Cobb said. “They get so excited to have them here.”
In coordination with the male community involvement with I Love to Read, the preschool is hosting their penny drive to raise money for a local men’s shelter.
Each day in February, students have the opportunity to bring in loose change from home. The classes put it together and the plastic bags are returned to students who take them home, find more change, and bring them back. Teachers at the school and other community members were known to make larger, anonymous donations, Baber said.
Last year, the school chose St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter as the recipient of their penny drive. The goal was $500 to sponsor a bed through the program, and Baber said she thought $500 was “enormous” for the fundraiser.
“The kids were so excited,” she said. “They brought in $1,500 and were able to sponsor three beds. The more they raised, the more they were shocked.”
St. Benedict’s Executive Director Harry Pedigo volunteered to read to students last year, and the students were able to make a connection to where their donation was going.
Baber said the combination of the male involvement and the penny drive allow students to focus on a “month of love” during February.
“We learn how words are going to help us,” Baber said. “It makes an impact on the students and the community.”
Community males who are interested in participating in I Love to Read month at Hager Preschool are encouraged to contact the school by calling 280-686-1125.
Donations are also being accepted for the penny drive, and this year, the money will go to Friends of Sinners men’s facility, a local Christ-centered residential substance recovery program. Contact the school for more information on donations.