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For the love of reading: Heroes Elementary Welcomes Community, Military Leaders for Read Across America Event

Camp Lejeune Globe
Camp Lejeune | March 6, 2019

Mrs. Sanders receives an award from Jacksonville City Council for her efforts for Read Across America Week
Mrs. Sanders receives an award from Jacksonville City Council for her efforts for Read Across America Week

By Pat Gruner Lifestyles Writer

Camp Lejeune Globe


Norma Sanders’ love for reading started at an early age.

“My mother would read to us,” said Sanders, a teacher at Heroes Elementary School on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. “The newspaper being delivered was a big deal at our house, magazines as well. She was so proud of our reading. When people would come by, and it didn’t matter if it was the milkman or an insurance salesman, she’d invite them in and say ‘Listen to my babies read.’”

Now, Sanders’ love for reading has come full circle with a special event for Read Across America Day at Heroes Elementary School. The project, started by the National Education Association (NEA), aims to help improve literacy and promote reading among people of all ages. The event falls on the first school-day closest to March 2 in honor of the birthday of children’s author Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

For Sanders, the March 4 event was the culmination of months of work. She obtained a grant for the school after writing a project centered on this year’s NEA theme of “Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers.” She was responsible for bringing individuals from across the community — inside Camp Lejeune’s gates and out — to read to students at the school.

“We have guests from all walks of life. City council members, high ranking military officials, people in education, religious leaders and guests from the emergency service departments are all here,” said Dr. Kimberley Carr, principal at Heroes Elementary School. “Norma Sanders, who wrote for the grant and coordinated the event, did an outstanding job. … This was the culminating event for a week’s worth of literacy activities.”

Events throughout the previous week included presentations for the school on the importance of reading as well as various days that allowed students to dress as their favorite characters.

Among notable attendees at this year’s Read Across America Day were Bryan Jackson of Jacksonville’s City Council, Judge Paul Hardison and Clay Bauman from WITN-Ch. 7.

“One of the most touching moments for me was one of my previous students, Clay from WITN, coming back to read to the children today,” said Sanders.

A number of Marines also read to students during the day, including Maj. Gen. David J. Furness, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division.

“I was asked to participate in this event, and I was more than happy to do it,” Furness said. “Any activity that promotes reading is important.”

He read the Dr. Seuss book “Horton Hears a Who” to a couple of fifth-grade classes during the Read Across America Day event.

“It is a touching story about courage and commitment, standing up for the rights of marginalized 

people and standing by a friend no matter how unpopular it may be,” Furness said. “I think for this age group, those are some important life lessons.”

Sanders said students enjoyed hearing the stories from the community and military leaders.

“They’ve been coming up to me and saying ‘thank you,’” Sanders said.

Students and volunteers alike also received gifts from Sanders to help grow a love for reading. Younger students from kindergarten to second grade received Dr. Seuss themed hats, while the older elementary schoolers were given an array of bookmarks.

“Encouraging them to read is what it’s all about for me,” Sanders said of the gifts.

Volunteer readers received certificates of appreciation as well as pens.

For Sanders, the timing of the event tied naturally to the project’s 2019 theme.

“I knew we had Women’s History Month, Black History Month and Dr. Seuss’ birthday all coming up together with Read Across America Day,” said Sanders. “I wanted children to be able to see people with different accents, backgrounds and cultures come together and show who they are through reading.”

That concept is important to Sanders.

“I want students to see people read in their own ways. I want them to be themselves,” said Sanders. “It’s a community effort. For all of us.”

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