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R.E.A.L. service members read

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Story by SrA Dennis Sloan on 02/17/2012
By 2nd Lt. David J. Murphy
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs Office

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. Airmen from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and one sailor from Naval Weapons Station Earle, Sandy Hook Bay, N.J. participated in a children's reading program at George E. Wilson Elementary School in Hamilton Township, N.J., Jan. 31.

The seven airmen and one sailor joined men from the Hamilton Township community to participate in R.E.A.L. Men Read, an event designed to promote literacy among children, said Charisse Smith, event coordinator and Basic Skills Title I teacher.

R.E.A.L. stands for Reading, Excelling, Achieving and Leading.

The program has spread throughout the country since its inception in the Chicago public school system, said Smith.

The program is now in its sixth year according to The Office of Teaching + Learning for Chicago Public Schools.

"We are a school in need and this is a great way to boost our literacy initiatives," said Smith.

Each of the men involved in the event were given a book to read, questions to ask during the reading and multiple copies of the book to hand out afterward.

Tech. Sgt. Pablo Londono, of the 621st Contingency Response Wing, and a native of Elizabeth, N.J., read "Jalapeo Bagels," by Natasha Wing, to a group of first- and second-graders. The book features a young boy, also named Pablo, who learns about the importance of culture.

"I think the students got as much out of it as I did," said Londono. "The children were really excited when I was done reading and they couldn't wait to read it again."

The children showed enthusiasm while being read to and expressed excitement at about re-reading the books in their own homes.

"They were all pretty fixated on their books," said Senior Airman Steve Trawick, of the 818th Global Military Squadron and a native of St. Simon's Island, Ga.

Tarwick read "Julie of the Wolves," by Jean Craighead George, to fourth and fifth graders. Trawick was able to relate to the story, which is about a girl trying to survive in the wilderness, to his own experiences going through Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school.

"We talked about both physical and mental strategies for overcoming adversity," said Trawick.

They were "pretty sharp," Trawick said of the children. He also said he was surprised by how insightful they were and how the conversation with them was a fruitful experience.

Airmen representing the 305th Air Mobility Wing, 87th Air Base Wing, 21st Air Mobility Operations Squadron and 373rd Training Squadron were also on hand to provide support.

Gabrielle Samad, 6, a first grader at the school said the event was "great" and enjoyed learning about culture through "Jalapeo Bagels."

"My favorite part was when he picked out what he wanted to bring to school," Samad said.

Many of the children expressed their fondness for the books they read and their eagerness to read more.

"I liked it and thought it was interesting," said Jazmin Bazan, 9, who read "Bunnicula," by James Howe. "I thought the reader was interesting and I'm interested in reading the rest of the book."

The children also received certificates recognizing their participation in the event and copies of the books they read.

Parents participated in the event by watching a movie about the importance of reading to children.

The event concluded in the school's auditorium where all the readers received recognition for their participation. Other men involved in the event included a police sergeant, a detective and the mayor of Hamilton Township, John F. Bencivengo.

This was the second of four R.E.A.L. Men Read events at Wilson Elementary. The first was held Nov. 15 and was a "resounding success" with one-quarter of the student population in attendance, said Smith.

The next two R.E.A.L. Men Read events are scheduled March and May. Any men interested in participating can contact the Community Relations section of the 87th Air Base Wing Public Affairs office at 754-2008.


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