STUDENTS FROM HAINES CITY High School’s Future Farmers of America (Haines City-FFA) program will be reading to students at Dundee Elementary Academy for Florida Agriculture Literacy Day on April 21. This year’s book is Drive Through Florida: Livestock and Poultry, which is specially designed for Florida Agriculture Literacy Day by Florida Agriculture in the Classroom (FAITC). The book walks students through Florida agricultural industries like beef, cattle, swine, equine, and poultry.
This book is a departure from the books produced for previous literacy days, and includes more facts and data. It can be read to older elementary school students or younger grades and comes with instructions for how to read according to the audience, says Jennifer Williams, the Dundee Elementary School principal’s secretary and organizer of the event for the institution.
The main character is a friendly truck named Ole Red, who drives students through each of the topics. The book comes with a DVD, which the school will play on smart boards, and engaging learning activities will take place after reading. These activities are specially designed by FAITC for this day of literacy and are geared toward fostering a love of reading and agriculture in students.
“The children are the future of our planet, and if they don’t know how to read — if they don’t know the importance of agriculture, especially in our community — then there’s no way they’re going to be stewards,” Williams says of the importance of Florida Agriculture Literacy Day.
At least five to 10 students are coming from Haines City-FFA, Williams shares, and they will be reading to at least 15 classes, and possibly all 25. “The Dundee students loved it so much last year, they talked about it all day and wrote thank-you notes,” she says. “So, we decided to do it again.”
The high school students have a good time too, according to Haines City-FFA advisor Paul Reed. “They like going down there and interacting with the elementary kids,” Reed says. “They really enjoy it.” Most children don’t grow up enjoying animals and agriculture, so it’s about fostering that, Reed points out. It’s also about encouraging children to embrace literacy. “Hopefully, the youngsters will follow along with (the high school students) and develop a love for reading,” he adds.
Williams believes that having high schoolers read to the younger students is a great way to inspire a positive attitude toward reading. “When they meet the bigger kids, they see reading isn’t just something that grownups do — kids do it, too,” she says.
Anyone involved with agriculture — from industry leaders to master gardeners, to 4-H agents and FFA members — is welcome to take part in Florida Agriculture Literacy Day. Volunteers are encouraged to read on April 21, but they can read any time throughout the year. Due to fundraising efforts and donations to the FAITC, books and materials will be provided free of charge to participating readers. Those looking for more information, or those who want to volunteer next year, can visit faitc.org/aglitday.
article by KELSEY TRESSLER