Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz --
“Kids just don’t read anymore,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Melton, with a note of exasperation as he sat at his desk Aug. 29.
With his strong feelings on the importance of reading, it is no wonder the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron training chief decided to start a program, in conjunction with the station Child Development Center, aimed at helping children discover a love of reading.
Literacy is so important, Melton said. If they can’t read their grades drop in other areas, even math, as well.
“I started the program because I enjoy reading and not enough (children) read. They’re too addicted to the Playstation,” he said.
The program began Aug. 27 with Marines volunteering time throughout the work day to make a quick pit stop at the station library to pick out a children’s book and then a quick hop to the CDC to read their story of choice.
“(The Giving Tree) is a favorite of mine from when I was a young kid,” said Sgt. Gregory J. Dillon, H&HS armoror, of a book that featured a tree who so loved a little boy she gave him her fruit, branches and finally her trunk until she was nothing but a stump which she also offered him to sit on and rest.
“I think (children) can read it and get enjoyment out of it and adults can read it and get more in depth. It depends on your level of maturity what you get out of the story,” said Dillon.
Dillon said he take pleasure in reading to the tiny tots in the Discovery classroom.
“I mostly enjoyed watching their reactions to the story,” he said. “It was amazing that they were able to follow along and guess what would happen next.
If the children’s reactions to the stories read by Dillon and Murray were any indication of the program’s success, Melton and his fellow Marine volunteers can look forward to being responsible for many children discovering a love of the written word.
“So far the (children) are enjoying it,” said Melton after speaking with CDC staff members at the conclusion of the first week of reading. “It’s just now getting off the ground. We’ll know in a month whether it’s doing any good or not.”
Melton’s love of reading also extends into his own home where his 10-year-old son and five-year-old daughter share their father’s love of reading.
“My son loves outdoor adventure books. If it has to do with camping, hunting, fishing, he loves it,” said Melton fondly. “My daughter likes anything with puppies and rhyming.
Starting children out early with a love of reading will help them in the future, said Melton. Reading slows them down and helps them with complicated problem solving.
“With TV shows, they get all the answers in an hour. Reading makes them patient,” Melton explained.
His own children’s literacy is just as important to Melton as the community’s.
“I read to them at home,” said Melton. “Well, not my son anymore, but I make sure we read the same books so I can quiz him on it.”
With volunteers eagerly jumping at the opportunity and the experience of helping the community, the new program is taking leaps and bounds toward becoming an important part of the air station.