Kindergartners gathered around Woodford County Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins on Monday morning when he read the first chapter of The Mouse and the Motorcycle. It’s a book every preschool and elementary student in the school district will take home with them so they can read with their families. “We want your mom or your dad or your older brother or sister or aunt or uncle or grandmother to sit down and read a chapter with you every night – until you finish the book,” said Hawkins before reading chapter one of the children’s novel to kindergartners sitting on the gym floor at Simmons Elementary. Woodford READS (Read, Explore And Discover Success) was launched “to support the important foundation of early literacy,” according to an announcement of the kickoff event at Simmons Elementary School. Hawkins was joined at the kickoff by Ambrose Wilson IV, chair of the Woodford County Board of Education, and Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen L. Pruitt. “Nothing’s more important than me getting out and being in the schools,” said Pruitt, when asked why he came to Simmons for the launch of Woodford READS. “I can’t make good decisions if I stay in Frankfort all the time … Me being out – it reminds me of why we do what we do. It’s about our students.” Before going into classrooms at Simmons Elementary on his first visit to Woodford County schools, Pruitt said, “I never want to be a commissioner that makes decisions based on what I think is happening. I’d rather (make decisions) based on what I’ve seen.” He described Woodford READS as a fantastic idea because it’s a program that brings people together around literacy. “We can’t get anywhere in life without being a good reader,” said Pruitt. “So instilling good practices in kids when they’re young and hopefully building a love of the reading … with some books they actually enjoy reading and they’re not being tested on.” After Hawkins finished reading chapter one of The Mouse and the Motorcycle, he told the kindergartners, “When we start reading chapter two, we may find out a little bit more about who’s watching” a boy and his family – this mouse named Ralph. Woodford County schools will post photos of parents reading to their children (send to firstname.lastname@example.org) on the district’s website “so people can see all of our students reading with their families,” said Hawkins during Monday’s kickoff at Simmons Elementary. Woodford READS, which provides a free copy of Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle to students, was launched to encourage families to take a few minutes each night to read together. “This helps expand the student’s vocabulary and build important literacy skills. For intermediate students, we would like for the (older) child to read to an adult or even to a younger sibling,” the kickoff announcement stated.
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