‘Good for the soul’

Community members join Stearns Elementary students, SMART for World Read Aloud Day

“This is the biggest robot ever made,” Rick Abel told kindergartener Yuuki Kloppenstein as he turned the pages of the National Geographic Kids book “Robots.”

Abel was among community members and Mazama High School students who volunteered Wednesday to read to students at Stearns Elementary School as part of SMART Reading’s celebration of World Read Aloud Day. World Read Aloud Day, in its 11th year, was recognized today (Feb. 5) in more than 170 countries.

Kloppenstein was an eager listener, peppering Abel, a project manager at Klamath County Economic Development Association, with questions and robot factoids.

“This is good for the soul,” Abel said as he finished reading with Yuuki. “It’s good for community organizations to be involved in the schools.”

The read aloud celebration took part during the school’s SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) program. Students in the program read with volunteers. Each session, the students get to choose a new book to take home and keep. SMART, a statewide nonprofit program, operates in all city and county elementary schools.

At Stearns, two Mazama students – Charles Kaufman and Jordon Gulley – serve as coordinators and more than 30 of their high school classmates volunteer as SMART readers. Among the community volunteers on Wednesday were local SMART board members, Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty-Morris, and Klamath Falls Mayor Carol Westfall, who read a proclamation declaring Feb. 5, 2020, as World Read Aloud Day in Klamath Falls.

Holly Stork, area manager of SMART Reading for Klamath and Lake counties, organized the event with the help of Kaufman and Gulley.

The library at Stearns Elementary was definitely not quiet as adults read books about giraffes, princesses and dinosaurs to eager listeners. After Abel and Yuuki finished “Robots,” Yuuki wrote his name on a sticker placed inside the book’s front cover and will take the book home to keep.

“We learned about robots, but I think he already knew a lot,” Abel said with a smile.

World Read Aloud Day, started by New York-based nonprofit, LitWorld, is a chance to celebrate the joy of reading aloud, and advocate for literacy. SMART Reading used the platform of World Read Aloud Day to bring awareness to the critical importance of early literacy by challenging Oregonians to read aloud with a child in their life or to help spread the word about the importance of reading.

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