KNIGHTDALE — Sitting with their legs crossed and their chins tilted upward, Joy Rogers’ second-graders looked like they were watching television.
Their special guest, Knightdale police Sgt. Tracy Solomon, sat in a wooden rocking chair at the front of the class. His black leather belt glistened like the glare of fluorescent lights in the students’ eyes.
“Anybody have dogs at home?” he asked.
A dozen little hands reached for the sky.
“Well, Stanley the dog is the star of this story,” he said, turning to the first page of “Stanley’s Party” – the tale of a dog who jumped on the couch after his people left the house and kept sniffing out trouble.
The soft-spoken, stern-looking police officer was one of 30 volunteers who read to students at Lockhart Elementary on Tuesday, Sept. 17, as part of the school’s Reading Celebration Week.
On Monday, teachers dressed up as book characters and read to students. On Wednesday, Bright Star Theater performed a play. The school encouraged students to dress up as their favorite book character on Thursday. And on Friday, Lockhart planned for different classrooms to compete to see who could read the most pages in a two-hour time span.
Teachers at Lockhart read to their students every day, Principal Daniel Zoller said. But the school is emphasizing reading comprehension during the first nine weeks of the school year because literacy is essential for understanding other core subjects such as math and science – subjects the school will focus on in separate semesters.
“If there’s one thing a kid needs to walk out of elementary school with, it’s the ability to read on grade level,” Zoller said.
Literacy is of heightened concern at Knightdale schools, which have high percentages of students from impoverished families. Wake Education Partnership, a nonprofit education advocate, in August started a campaign in eastern Wake to promote to parents the benefits of reading to prekindergartners. The group scheduled its final literacy “summit” for 9 a.m. Sept. 21 at Carver Elementary.
For Lockhart’s “Volunteer Reading Day,” school staff members traveled across town seeking readers. Their efforts lured volunteers from businesses like Target, Kohl’s, Knightdale Eye Care and Dickey’s Barbecue.
Steve Sommerville, a local insurance agent for Nationwide, read to kindergarten students in English and Spanish.
“I picked a Spongebob book and tried to imitate the characters voices. They giggled, which was good enough feedback for me,” Sommerville said. “I was glad to help. Who knows, maybe it will spark a passion for reading.”
The East Regional Library helped, too. So did Knightdale’s mayor, fire chief, police chief and other town staff members.
Back in Rogers’ room, Sgt. Solomon told students to call him Tracy. He finished reading about “the best doggone party a dog ever had” shortly after noon Tuesday.
He closed the book and looked up. “What do you think?” he asked. The students applauded.
That’s when one student asked the question every teacher hopes to hear.
“Can we read one more?” the student asked.