HOHENFELS, Germany — A North Carolina author supported Read Across America Day for military children attending Hohenfels Elementary School, here, in Germany.
March 1 is a special day at many schools across America and is celebrated by reading books and wearing red for the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
In countries where military personnel are stationed, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools provide this opportunity for American military children, thus allowing these children to have a taste of American school culture even though they are living abroad.
School Liaison Officers at some of the overseas locations recruit local community members such as commanders, Soldiers and other military members to read books in classrooms. The Hohenfels school liaison, Nickayla Myers-Garner, hoped to share a special connection with the students at Hohenfels Elementary School while they celebrated literacy this year.
To do this, Myers-Garner contacted author Hunter Darden. Darden is the mother of an Army Captain and daughter of a former kindergarten teacher so she was excited to support. Several phone calls, emails and Google Meets later, Darden was set up to read.
There were no air miles obtained on Darden’s trip to read to students in Germany. On that lovely North Carolina morning, Darden woke up and logged onto her computer where she greeted two classrooms consisting of third and fourth graders at what was already a beautiful Bavarian afternoon.
The students were eagerly awaiting this special guest and squealed in excitement when they saw her appear on the large screen on the library and classroom walls.
Darden read her book, “Gorgeous Georgia: A Story of Inner Beauty,” which is about a conceited giraffe who becomes humbled when her community comes together to support her after an accident. The students eagerly listened and reflected upon the message of the book.
The third and fourth graders asked Darden questions about her books and about being an author. She shared how the idea came to her for the book, how she found the illustrator, when she knew she wanted to be an author (in the fourth grade), and some of her favorite books when she was a child.
Afterwards, Lisa Zimmerman, the school information specialist, shared with the students that many authors are paid for reading their works to students at schools, but that Darden did not charge the school. Much like the message in her book, Darden generously shared her time to read and speak with the students.
When asked what the experience was like for the students, one boy raised his hand and said, “She’s in North Carolina. I used to live at Fort Bragg. While she read, it made me think of the good times I had in North Carolina and the friends I left behind.”
Another student said, “She’s a real, live author who’s in North Carolina. North Carolina is far from Germany, and she read to us from across the gigantic sea! That’s neat that she did that for us!”
A girl eagerly answered, “You don’t usually get to meet an author. It’s usually someone else who reads the books that an author writes. We got to meet the author and she read us her book!”
As the students were released for the end of the school day, they grabbed their backpacks and talked about the famous person they had met that day.
Like their parents, children of active duty members make sacrifices for our country. They are away from extended and immediate family, move regularly, sometimes even in the middle of a school year, and many attend multiple schools just within their elementary school careers. Events such as hosting a guest author via the internet is programing to help honor some of their sacrifices and struggles.