BRADENTON -- Lakewood Ranch High School and Bashaw Elementary School may be considered unlikely partners, but in the case of literacy, they're not.
About 250 Lakewood Ranch seniors visited Bashaw Elementary in Bradenton on Friday for what has become their annual mission to instill the love of reading in small children.
Carrying children's books researched, written, edited, and illustrated by the seniors, along with creative and fun projects that highlight the themes of their books, the students spent the morning in different classrooms quickly becoming buddies to the little ones who had
been waiting with anticipation the entire week for them to arrive.
The annual senior graduation project, spearheaded by their English department instructors, is called Winnie the Pooh and Shakespeare Too. It was created 22 years ago by a former Bradenton English teacher, Frank Anderson, a lover of Shakespeare, and his wife, Andy, who taught elementary school and loved reading Winnie the Pooh books to her students.
"The goal is to make our graduating seniors aware of how important literacy is, especially when they become parents in the future. We want them to instill the love of reading in their children," said Candace Delazzer, an English teacher at Lakewood Ranch High who coordinated the project for her department.
First-graders in Ms. Sydney Komyati's class were totally engaged in the stories the students brought about fishing, giraffes and leaves, and then the fun activities that followed, like learning how to tie a fishing hook.
Kim Hicks, coordinator of the program at Bashaw Elementary, called the scenario quite amazing.
"There's definitely a connection to the books they bring here. Everyone is so engaged. This is like an indoor field trip," she said.
First-grader Barbara Baeza enjoyed hearing the story of "Little Johnny's Day at the Lake."
"I learned that you have to be patient and wait until the fish eat the worm." she said.
Fellow student Allee Owens enjoyed reading and participating in the after-activities for "Jeffrey the Giraffe."
"I think it was great. I learned that you have to keep going to reach your destiny."
High school senior Adam Stem, who is an avid fisherman when he's not in school, said he wants to study engineering in college. But for now, he was happy writing a book about fishing.
"Kids can enjoy it and learn about it as well. My partner, Jarred, and I even included information about the ecosystem," Stem said.
When the projects concluded, the students and their teacher presented certificates of appreciation to the visiting seniors, who boarded their buses to return to school with big smiles on their faces.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHearld.