There’s nothing quite like a great story. Something about a good book has the power to transport us to another place, another time, where we can learn life’s lessons through its pages. Learning the value of books often starts at an early age with picture books. Cliff Bryan, Managing Director at Benjamin F. Edwards and Co., helped foster this love for reading in young learners Tuesday afternoon, as he read to Mrs. Bryan’s first-grade class at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Valparaiso.
Mr. Bryan is what we call a ‘celebrity reader’ here,” said David Muniz, Principal at Thomas Jefferson. “Every so often, all of our classrooms will have a guest reader come in to share a story with them and really get them excited about reading.”
Students took their seats on their story time carpet, listening attentively to every word of the story as Bryan read. With each turn of the page, they were hooked, reacting out loud to every scene described.
“The class is always full of energy when a guest reader is here,” Muniz said. “They love seeing different people in the school.”
Bryan’s reading, featuring the book ‘Mr. Duck Means Business,’ taught the children the value of sharing and showing kindness to others. Before the reading, Bryan invited the children to listen carefully and to identify the lesson Mr. Duck learned. When the story finished, hands shot up in the air, ready to share what they learned.
“You get to be a small part of teaching them something new,” Bryan said. “That’s something pretty special.”
Bryan has been donating books and performing readings for schools across Porter County for the past 15 years, hoping to give local kids an exciting experience and provide them with reading materials they might not have otherwise.
“We’ve donated over 500 books, not just to Thomas Jefferson but other schools within Porter County,” Bryan said. “As a result, I always make it a point to come in and read to the kids one to five times every year.”
Muniz said the goal of the celebrity reader program is to instill in kids an appreciation for reading and to help them learn more about the people in their community.
“Usually, they’re not told who the reader is going to be, so it’s always a fun surprise for them to find out who will be sharing a book with them,” Muniz said. “By bringing in outside community members, they get to learn something about that person, what they do, and engage with someone other than their every-day teacher.”
Celebrity readers are typically individuals who are invested in schools and want to give back, and Bryan’s continuous generosity makes him the perfect candidate.
“The interaction with the kids is definitely the best part of all of this,” Bryan said. “If it’s a really good story they have just as much fun or more as you do reading to them!”
Bryan says his goal is to keep this up for Thomas Jefferson Elementary School as well as the local library. He plans on continuing to share stories with children of the community for years to come.