Tri-County clubs promote reading in schools

Village of Poincina resident Linda Wheelock, also known as Titch of Clown Alley 179, reads a book to the second-grade students of The Villages Charter School as part of the Reading is Fundamental program.

Watching a clown read to their class makes books fun and exciting, children and teachers said at The Villages Charter School.

As part of Reading Is Fundamental, The Aktion Club, a subset of the Kiwanis Club of Lady Lake, on Friday gave each student in kindergarten through second grade a book. This was while a member of Clown Alley 179 read books to each class as a few students at a time selected books for their own from tables set up in the room.

“I think it makes it more engaging for them and exciting, and it freshens them up,” particularly for students still struggling with reading, second-grade teacher Julianne Locke said. “It gives them a fresh perspective that reading can be fun.”

She said students may envision the clown when they read.

“I think it’s awesome, because I like books and the clown’s here,” second-grader Sam Correnti said. “I got ‘Captain Underpants.’”

Kiwanis Club member and Aktion Club adviser Ann Hensley, of the Village of Sanibel, said the book distribution is probably her favorite activity of the year.

Aktion Club member Laura Johns, of the Village of Sanibel, helped students find books they wanted.

“It’s enjoyable to see the kids smile when they’re reading a book,” Johns said.

Sometimes, that meant finding another copy of a book from the “Captain Underpants” series, which second-grade teacher Robin Crego said is a favorite of boys in that grade, along with the “Bad Kitty” series.

Those books are at the level just before “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” she said.

For second-grade girls, “I just noticed that three of them got ‘Junie B. Jones,’ and there’s so many of them in that series,” Crego said.    

Second-graders are getting to the stage when they can read chapter books and are reading to learn after learning to read in first grade, she said.

Linda Wheelock, of the Village of Poinciana, dressed as Titch the clown, read books about meerkats and planet Earth to the students.

People can learn about new things by reading, second-grader Tiernan Atkinson said.

”I really love to read,” Tiernan said. “It’s very fun to read, because if you don’t read, then you don’t know anything.”

Some students have books at home. Others do not, Crego said.

Wheelock said participating in the reading program has been revealing,

“This is the first book some children have had,” she said. “That really opened my eyes. You’re in second grade and have never had a book of you own.”

The Aktion Club and Titch presented books to the charter school second-graders Friday and the club and clowns were scheduled to present them to kindergarten and first-grade classes today and Tuesday.

The Kiwanis Club also presented books to Villages Elementary at Lady Lake and Fruitland Park Elementary School.

The events promote a love of reading in an era when students have a lot of choices, Vice Principal Sandy Nielsen said.

“Having some downtime when they can escape into a different world is important,” she said about the joy of reading.

Staff writer Dayna Straehley can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5408, or