MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Marines and sailors from the I Marine Expeditionary Force volunteered to go to the Vista Academy of Visual Performing Arts to read to the children there in order to promote literacy March 2.
Read Across America is meant to promote literacy in children by encouraging adults to read to them.
“Read across America asks that we find a caring adult to read to every child,” said Dr. Janet Newman, second grade teacher at the academy. “So what do you do when you have 120 second graders? You call in the Marines.”
When Marines heard the call for literacy, the volunteers came running.
“I thought it would be fun to get out and help the community, so I volunteered,” said Cpl. Eric B. Horning, motor transport operator, I MEF Headquarters Group.
The 19 Marines and two sailors arrived at the school nearly half-an-hour prior to the first bell. The children asked the Marines questions about their jobs and their time in the Corps.
As soon as the bell rang, the children assembled into their respective class lines, and the Marines fell into formation. A small Color Guard was formed, and the Marines raised the Colors to the sound of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Every Friday, the Vista Academy of Visual Performing Arts performs a morning exercise disguised as a fun dance. “The Bulldog-Boogie” was in full swing after the Pledge of Allegiance ended, and some Marines joined in the five-minute amusement.
The children were then whisked away to class, and the Marines and sailors were not far behind. Groups split up into two different classrooms and were paired up with two or three youngsters apiece.
Since National Reading Day celebrates Dr. Seuss’ birthday, most of the books read were his classics, such as "The Cat in the Hat," or "Green Eggs and Ham."
After reading to their first class, the Marines and sailors were treated with a breakfast of green-dyed eggs and ham.
The recess bell sounded as the children were being read to, and the group of Leathernecks thought that it would be a good time to get some physical training. The second graders were more than happy to join them.
As Cpl. Stephanie M. Mendez, combat engineer, MHG, led the formation, she called out cadence written by the school about synonyms, antonyms and homonyms, with a left, right, left and an oohrah thrown in.
The formation lasted for the entire recess, and soon the Marines were back in class reading to a new group of children. After another 30-minute reading session, it was time for the service members to return to Camp Pendleton.
“I had a blast!” Horning said. “It’s good to know these kids can read better than I could at their age. I was impressed!”
Before they left, Newman expressed her gratitude for the Marines, thanking them for their generosity and remarking how they impressed the children.
“The kids loved it and had a great time,” Newman said. “They’ll remember the message the Marines gave; it goes so much further than books.”