Celebrities, first responders read with kids at POES

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer 

PELHAM — Former Alabama and NFL running back Trent Richardson, comedian and YouTube personality Jermaine “Funnymaine” Johnson, former U.S. soldier and motivational speaker Noah Galloway and others stopped by Pelham Oaks Elementary on Monday, March 2 to help celebrate National Read Across America Day.

The nationally recognized day, which coincides with the birthday of famed children’s author Dr. Seuss, focuses on the importance of reading.

“You see how we’re all sitting in this crowd now? Back then we couldn’t do that, but now we can. That’s a big change,” Trent Richardson said, referencing the time before the Civil Rights Movement while reading to a classroom.

Students sat on either side of Richardson, and they took turns reading aloud from “Alabama My Home Sweet Home!” by Charles Ghigna, which illustrates significant moments and important figures in Alabama history, including Civil Rights leaders, innovators, musicians and athletes.

One page referenced former Auburn and pro athlete Bo Jackson.

“Are you an Auburn fan?” Richardson asked, which resulted in a variety of responses from students; lots of “Roll Tides” could be heard in support of Richardson.

“These kids need hope and they need guidance,” Richardson said after the readings. “Being able to do something positive in the community and impact these kids has always been a big thing for me. I feel like it’s a responsibility for me to interact with kids anytime that I see them.”

Meanwhile, Jermaine “Funnymaine” Johnson was in the library reading “President Taft is Stuck in the Bath” by Mac Barnett, which illustrates the 27th President figuring out how to get out of his bathtub.

“Use that big noggin and cook up a plan,” Johnson read from the book. Afterwards he held a question-and-answer session with the students.

“I always say I was blessed with a platform where if kids recognize me I’ll definitely use it for good,” Johnson said. “Anytime kids can see something positive, it encourages them to do positive things when they get older.”

Recently retired Principal Deberah Miller read one of her favorite Dr. Seuss books, “The Cat in the Hat Comes Back,” while dressed as the titular character, striped stovepipe hat and all.

Miller said she enjoyed getting to come back and spend time with the children.

“I think it’s important that children hear good readers and see that adults in various professions continue to read,” she said.

Pelham High Assistant Principal Sabrina Tutchtone read “Knuffle Bunny” by Mo Willems and said it was fun to watch the kids’ eyes light up as she read. Pelham City Schools Director of Operations Floyd Collins also stopped by and read the famous “Green Eggs and Ham,” a book he also enjoys reading to his own children.

Several first responders also participated, among them Pelham Fire Lt. Wes Greene, reading Dr. Seuss’ “Fox In Socks.”

“I have children that we’ve read the same books to, so it kind of brought back some memories from reading to mine when they were little,” Greene said.

POES Principal Chase Holden said all of the guest readers connected with the students and helped put a spotlight on reading.

“Trent was able to make reading fun for the students he read to. Jermaine connected with our fifth graders by talking about what it means to be a creator/YouTuber. Noah talked to our students about coping with loss. Based on the feedback I received from parents, teachers and students, I can say that the day was a success,” Holden said.