Alabama’s first lady Dianne Bentley visited Odenville Elementary School last week and read to second-grade students in Paige Herren’s class. Bentley donated 100 books to the school through the Scholastic Book Fairs.
Alesia Mitcham, a representative with the Scholastic Book Fairs, said it was very important to have Bentley read to the students at OES.
“She is a reading ambassador,” Mitcham said. “She represents the state promoting summer reading. It is so important for kids to read during the summer. Fifteen to 20 minutes a day would keep them on grade level. We all want that, because reading is the fundamental aspect of education.”
Herren was thrilled to have the first lady in her classroom.
“It has been an honor to have Mrs. Bentley here,” Herren said. “My students have been so excited about her coming. They have been cleaning everything, including their pencil boxes. They have been thrilled. It feels like we have had a celebrity among us, and it’s not every day the governor’s wife comes to read to your students.”
Bentley said she just loves children.
“I have four sons, six granddaughters and a seventh granddaughter on the way,” Bentley said. “As a child I loved to read, and I still love to read. I like coming out to the schools because they think a first lady is special. I don’t think I’m special, but it is a treat for them. So if I can identify that with reading — great.
“I want to encourage them to have a love for reading. Not just reading because the teacher tells them to. If they could just get into it, and enjoy it, I do believe it would make their lives more fun, and help in their future studies.”
Bentley said Scholastic Book Fairs gives her 500 books every year to donate to schools.
“Instead of donating all the books to one school, we choose five different schools,” Bentley said. “It’s fun for me to see different parts of the state.”
Heather Hannah is director of mansion operations and first lady affairs.
“We are very excited to be in Odenville today,” Hannah said. “Mrs. Bentley has donated 100 books to OES from Scholastics.
“This is probably our favorite time of year. Mrs. Bentley is a grandmother at heart, and she loves going into these schools and loving on these kids and hearing their perspectives. They are so honest all the time, and are so glad to see her. It is an encouragement.”
OES Principal Christa Urban said she is very thankful Bentley chose Odenville Elementary as one of five schools in the state to receive 100 books for the students to launch the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.
“The Scholastic Summer Challenge is a free reading program dedicated to stopping the ‘summer slide’ and encouraging kids to read every day this summer,” Urban said. “Now in its seventh year, the Summer Challenge invites kids to log the minutes they spend reading as they read for the world record.”
Urban said the top school with the most minutes read (or logged) will win a school visit from Dav Pilkey, the bestselling author of the Captain Underpants series.
“The top 20 schools with the most minutes logged will receive recognition in the 2014 Scholastic Book of World Records,” Urban said. “The top-20 schools — along with the top school in every state — will also receive a ‘Reading Plaque’ to display at school and a badge for their websites.”
Urban also said students can participate in weekly challenges, earn digital rewards, enter sweepstakes to win prizes, find great books to read and more. Information on how parents can access this program will be sent home.
“It was such an honor and privilege to greet Mrs. Bentley and introduce her to the great happenings at Odenville Elementary School,” Urban said. “She was such a sweet, precious, loving and caring lady that valued the innovative classroom discussions while she instilled the love of reading to our students.
“I would like to thank Brandi Coupland Keenum for helping to make this event successful. What a fabulous day for OES.”