Children ‘read for the record’

Oct. 03, 2013 @ 08:35 PM

In a scenic corner of Sanford Thursday, a group of children and accompanying grown-ups were captivated by a tale of a friendly tractor and his calf companion.

Mitchell Farm, tucked away at the end of Covert Road, was the setting for the annual “Read for the Record” event. The Lee County attendees were among millions across the country reading “Otis,” a children’s story by Loren Long, as part of a nationwide campaign by Jumpstart and the Pearson Foundation.

“The purpose is to emphasize the importance of early childhood literacy,” said Heather Garrity, a program manager with the Coalition for Families in Lee County. “It’s important to get parents involved early in that process so [children] are successful when they go to school. It also helps increase the parent-child bond.”

Lee County Library Outreach Specialist Sheneeta Thomas read “Otis” aloud to the group, which follows the friendship between a hardworking, fun-loving farm tractor named Otis and his friendship with a calf in the next stall. Their bond endures despite challenges.

In keeping with the spirit of the story, those in attendance were invited to “dress like their favorite farm hand,” participate in a beanbag toss, play “pin the apple on the tree” and more. 

“We tried to pick activities that relate to the book and are fun for the kids to do,” said Kristy Arey, outreach coordinator with the Lee County Partnership for Children. “We want to raise awareness of reading to ... young children, and making it fun.”

In addition to the farm event, all Sanford childcare centers were participating in Read for the Record in “some shape or form,” Arey said, estimating that the initiative was reaching 800 or more kids locally.

The promise of story time and love of animals drew Davenia Lee of Sanford and her children, Jayveon Lee, 1, and Kaneisha Smith, 3, to the farm.

“[We came to] let the kids have fun and play,” Lee said. “It’s a learning experience.”

Thursday was the first Read for the Record experience for Katie Thomas and her daughter, 3-year-old Victoria Thomas. The pair attended as part of a Mothers of Preschoolers group.

“She loves farms, and when I told her we were going to a farm this morning, she was so excited,” Thomas said. “She loves books, and that’s the whole point of it.”