President Leary helps encourage children's love of reading

President Leary helps encourage children's love of reading

The Head Start children hung on every word Luzerne County Community College President Thomas P. Leary read. With each rhyming set of words from Dr. Seuss' "The Eye Book," the children giggled, smiled or looked excitedly at Leary in anticipation of how the story would unfold next. Although the teachers had the children sit for the story, some stood because they couldn't contain their enthusiasm over the playful yet educational story.*

"Wink eye, wink eye. Pink eye, pink eye," Leary read turning the book around and showing the children a picture of a little boy winking opposite a furry rabbit with large red soulful eyes.

"Eww who would want that," Leary said playfully after reading the words 'pink eye.' The children erupted into laughter but remained focused as the President finished the story.

Leary read to the Head Start students at LCCC earlier this month as part of National Reading Month. He also visited classes at Kennedy Early Childhood Center in Nanticoke, and St. Nicholas-St. Mary's School in Wilkes-Barre.

"Having the opportunity to read to children in our communities is so important because it reinforces how important reading is," Leary said. "The books we read during National Reading Month are educational yet fun. They help engage children and get them interested in reading, so they become lifelong learners. It also helps me connect with them because they may hear the word 'college" at home. When I say I'm from a college, they can immediately relate to me, and we can get them to start thinking about college and their futures at an early age."

Ensuring children can read is important because it helps them succeed in life, information from Reading is Fundamental's (RIF) website indicated. With about 25 million children in the U.S. who can't read proficiently, RIF indicated that reading to children can show them that it's a fun activity while helping to tackle the literacy problem.

Before reading the books to the students, Leary asked them how they're doing, talked about LCCC and gave advice on how to be good citizens.

"Does anyone know what the president does," Leary asked Susan DeCinti's kindergarten class at Kennedy Early Childhood Center.

"Keeps everyone safe," one of the children said eagerly.

"Tells people what to do," another one said proudly.

"Excellent answers," Leary said smiling at those and the other answers the kindergarteners shouted out. "Keeping students safe is exactly what I do. But you know what you can do for me. The most important thing I want you to do is learn to be nice toward each other. Always be as kind as possible to each other. And remember, you are all stars in this world."

Over at St. Nicholas-St. Mary's, Leary visited the fourth, fifth and sixth grade classes, delivering his message of kindness before reading to the children. As a special treat, Leary was able to read at the classes of his great nephews Jameson, Connor, and Matthew.

"Remember everyone, the most important thing you can do is just be kind," Leary said. "It doesn't take a lot of effort. It makes you a better person and it builds character. At LCCC, we have signs that say, 'be kind.' It's such an important message and it gets you further in life."

When he visited with the Head Start children, they came to the rotunda at the Campus Center in Nanticoke, which is next door to the Head Start Center. Before he read to them, he also talked to them about being good citizens and the importance of reading.

At the LCCC event, Leary brought a special guest with him.

"Hey look. Who is that?," Leary said, excitedly as he pointed toward the rotunda door.

The children turned around quickly and immediately their faces lit up with smiles.

"A horsey!" one of the children yelled.

As soon as Blaze walked in, the children ran over to the LCCC mascot with some giving him a high five. As music played in the background, the children, Leary, the Head Start teachers and everyone else in attendance got to their feet and danced to the song with Blaze.

At the end of the event, Leary gave each child a coloring book, playdough, and crayons. Some of the children were so excited they gave Leary and others hugs as they left. But before the event ended, the children gave Leary a photo and certificate of appreciation.

"This certificate is presented to President Leary for your outstanding contributions to the academic and emotional growth of our students at Luzerne County Head Start LCCC," Leary read from the certificate. "Thank you so much for this. This is so nice and so special."