“It takes you opening up that book and beginning to read,” Winston said.
Winston, who works at the Alabama Power Steam Plant, and Greater Gadsden Tourism Director Hugh Stump met with students for the first time Thursday as part of Guys Read, a Gadsden Public Library project designed to keep boys interested in reading.
All Gadsden City elementary schools have “Guys Read” volunteers coming in to promote reading this month, thanks to the efforts of the library staff.
Stump will soon be back with the Floyd fourth-graders, introducing them to a tale of high adventure on the open seas: “Pirate Diary, The Journal of Jake Carpenter.”
He will be talking to the boys about how to speak like a real pirate — just another example of cool things kids can learn from books.
The goal is not to read to students. As library director Amanda Jackson said, they are fourth-graders and can read for themselves.
Instead, the idea is get the boys interested in seeking out these books to read for themselves.
“We’re not doing this for the girls,” Stump told the boys, and there’s a reason.
Studies show girls continue to read after fourth grade, while boys tend to lose interest, Jackson said. Guys Read was developed to keep boys interested in reading, ideally, for the rest of their lives.
The program will bring “cool guys” into the classrooms twice a week throughout February, to show the boys that cool guys keep reading.
On Thursday, Winston and writer Nick Bruel’s “Bad Kitty Takes a Bath” had Jeanmarie Wright’s students doubled over their desks in laughter.
Winston told the students the book would make them laugh and give them helpful tips for giving a cat a bath.
Stump had a confession: “I’ve got a cat. I’ve never given it a bath.”
It was not, Winston said, something for the faint of heart.
The book listed things needed to give a cat a bath: a bathtub, warm water, a suit of armor, a letter to your family and a kitty-shaped bathrobe.
“Who has a kitty-shaped bathrobe?” Winston asked the students. “Really? Where’d you buy it?” he asked, when one boy raised his hand indicating that he had one.
“Wal-Mart,” the boy said.
Both Stump and Winston said they are involved in Guys Read because they loved spending time with kids, and they love books.
The visit included a slide presentation with photos and text from the book that students enjoyed reading aloud.
At one point, Winston had to prompt Wright to move to the next slide.
“I got so caught up in it,” Wright said, of Winston’s interaction with the kids, that she forgot she about the slides.
She was appreciative of the enthusiasm Stump and Winston generated in the children. She said the children are, at this point, still interested in reading. The faculty and administration try to cultivate that with the Scholastic Book Fair and in other ways.
When they discuss something in class, Wright said, such as World War II, teachers will talk about “The Diary of Anne Frank.” They see their students then going to the library to look for the book. They also are encouraged to seek out books on other subjects, such as Black History Month.
If the response in the classroom was any indication, cat-bathing soon may be a research subject.
The first step in the program involved having students complete a brief survey, asking if they like to read, if they read books at home, if they think books are fun and to name their favorite book. They will complete the same survey at the end of the program.