Seven storytellers showed up to read to children at an Earth Day observance at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Cody Child Development Center April 25. Sitting in separate classrooms and reading books provided by the base’s Directorate of Environmental Management, JBM-HH Commander Army Col. Carl R. Coffman, Deputy Commander Marine Lt. Col. Jennifer L. Blair, Chief of Staff Debora Richert and Henderson Hall Commanding Officer Marine Col. Ira Cheatham sat down and engaged children of various ages with stories about the Chesapeake Bay and other environmentally-friendly themes. Henderson Hall Headquarters Company Commander Capt. Jennifer Raymond, Company 1st Sgt. Tonia Igo and Headquarters and Service Battalion administrative assistant Cpl. Sonja Grigsby, from the Marine side of the house, also took part.
Most of the readers – those who were already mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles and grandparents – were familiar with the storytelling techniques necessary to keep children engaged. They rotated picture books after reading a passage so kids could take in the colorful illustrations, they punctuated the narratives with exaggerated emotions and sweeping gestures, pausing occasionally to summarize a plot point or field a question from a quizzical child.
Blair conversed with 3- and 4-year-olds in the Strong Beginnings program before reading “Meet Chadwick and his Chesapeake Bay Friends.” “Everything we do has to do with reading, right?” she said, emphasizing the importance of the skill to learning in everyday life.
The deputy commander showed great relish in reading her book. “See how his eyes are all googly?” she asked children, describing the elongated structures projecting from Chadwick’s carapace. Blair brought both hands up to her eyes to drive home the image on the page.
Igo, reading “Dancing on the Sand,” a book largely focused on crabs, showed impressive peripheral vision, holding her book aloft with right arm raised to the side while seeming to look straight ahead at the kids.
“He uses his four-inch antennae to find food and detect danger,” Igo related. When the book explained how crabs like to eat fish, she asked her charges, “Do you like [to eat] fish, too?”
Coffman read “Sam: the Tale of a Chesapeake Bay Rockfish,” whose lead character, he said, is more familiarly known as the striped bass in the South where he’s from.
Coffman related how Sam gets stuck in a bottle and is caught by a fisherman, who marveling at his size and longevity – “You’re certainly the biggest rockfish I’ve seen” – decides to let him go.
“Lucky break, huh,” the commander ad-libbed.
In the “The Wartville Wizard,” Cheatham told youth an amusing story about a town that gets its comeuppance after members are irresponsible about trash disposal. When someone throws a can out the window, it hits him in the head when he goes out the front door. If a cigarette ash gets flicked out the window, the ash later lodges in an eyebrow. Eventually, refuse is literally chasing the characters down the street.
When one child blurted out mid-reading, “My mother throws trash onto the street,” Cheatham told him to talk to his mother, to help her bag the trash and let her know you want to help out.
Richert said children were very attentive at her reading of “Ollie the Oyster,” another in a series of Chesapeake Bay-focused themes at the readings. Children love having someone read to them, she said.
Grigsby said she was happy to convey an environmental message. “It was nice to be able to entertain the children on Earth Day and remind them about limiting our carbon footprint,” she said.