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Guest Reader Day encourages literacy

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Hundreds of students at Stockbridge Middle School were taken back to days long gone, when bedtime stories may have been the highlight of their days.

From those days, many of them gained their love and passion for reading. Others may not have developed that passion, or may have lost it along the way.

On Wednesday, community leaders attempted to spark a flame for literacy at Stockbridge Middle during its Second Annual Guest Reader Day.

The brainchild of media specialist Betsy Sierra, the 15-minute read to students at the school is geared to introducing students to real-life application of literacy among adults in the community.

"The purpose is to help our students see that our community leaders are readers, and enjoy reading," Sierra said. Fifteen of those community leaders turned out to read passages from novels and books to the school's sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders.

"I think it's pretty cool," said Sydney Wilson, a 13-year-old eighth-grader who is an avid reader with aspirations of becoming a writer or historian. "I think reading really helps you with your vocabulary."

Less staunch readers at the school, like Wilson's classmate 13-year-old Amyrah Butler, were encouraged to try to develop appetites for literature.

Butler, who wants to be a pediatrician, said she enjoys reading a mystery on occasion, but prefers to read magazine articles.

"It was good to see the students," said guest reader Connie Johnson.

Johnson retired last spring as media specialist at Cotton Indian Elementary School, a feeder school for Stockbridge Middle. She attends the event each year, and is reacquainted each year with many of her past students.

"It's exciting for the kids, because it's something different in the time before final exams," she said. Johnson believes the Guest Reader Day helps remind students, before the holidays, to stay intellectually active during their two-week winter break.

The point is to promote reading," said guest reader Cindy Thompson, a retired media specialist and coordinator from Clayton County Schools.

"I also am a firm believer that people never get tired of being read to," Thompson said.

She read the book "The Keeping Quilt," written by Patricia Pollaco, to Sean Thompson's sixth-grade science class. The book tells the story of a Russian immigrant family and the quilt that passes down through four generations. And sixth-graders at Stockbridge Middle recently completed a unit in socials studies on the Russian Revolution.

"I was able to feed off of what they learned in class," said Cindy Thompson. "It was enjoyable to go in and see those students faces. There were wonderful responses. I was very pleased."

An educator for 38 years, Thompson has been an advocate for literacy her entire life.

"It's the foundation of what they have to do the rest of their lives," she said. "It's key to being successful."