BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — As soon as principal Angela Morris walked into the cafeteria with a bin full of books and placed it on the table, 8-year-old Landin Shepard immediately grabbed the "Dinosaurs" book in the back.
Minutes later, when Battle Creek Fire Lt. Cliff Hill arrived at Lamora Park Elementary, he found Landin and sat down next to him. Landin began reading to him about allosauruses.
“A bigger lizard but with big scales and sharper teeth than ours,” Landin said.
“How long are those ones?” Hill said pointing to a picture in the book.
“Forty feet, 12 meters in length,” Landin read.
Both Landin and Hill were apart of the Reading Buddies program that pairs elementary school students with community members in an effort to help kids excel in reading.
Four months ago, Communities In Schools, the creators of the program, approached the Battle Creek Fire Department about participating, said Chief Brian Sturdivant.
Firefighters have been coming ever since.
“This is priceless,” Sturdivant said with a smile. “Being able to share some time, and hug a child, or develop that relationship, again, you can not put a price on this.”
Sturdivant said his staff has embraced the kids and the mission of the program. Wednesday morning, Landin was in the cafeteria with two other groups of kids and firefighters.
Morris said the program has been a success at the school.
“It brings a sparkle to children’s faces,” Morris said. “They’re excited the day that they know their reading buddy is coming to school. It builds their self-esteem.”
She said it helps with attendance too. She noticed that students come to school more often when they know they’re going to meet with their reading buddy.
The fire department agreed. Even though the program is for kids, they get excited too.
“With our job, we help out the public and that’s a great feeling,” Hill said. “But when you can help out a child and see that difference immediately in their face, there is no better feeling.”
More information on the Reading Buddies Program is available on Battle Creek Public Schools' website.