BRADENTON -- Lakewood Ranch High School senior Taran Graber admitted that he was a little nervous as Bashaw Elementary first-graders gathered around him to hear the story he had written as part of his senior project, but he started to relax as soon as he saw the smiles on their faces.
Winnie the Pooh and Shakespeare, Too is an event that Lakewood Ranch High School and Bashaw Elementary hold annually to promote children's literacy.
According to Kim Hicks, who coordinated the program at Bashaw Elementary this year, Lakewood Ranch High School seniors have been reading to Bashaw students for at least 13 years.
Winnie the Pooh and Shakespeare, Too is part of the Lakewood Ranch seniors' exit project for English class. They create and illustrate their own books to read to students in kindergarten through third grade, including ESE students.
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This year high school seniors
have to build three lessons in their books and provide three learning activities.
Candace Delazzer, an English teacher at Lakewood Ranch High School, said that students must also write a research paper on children's literacy.
The feedback is immediate for the high school students.
"It was great to see books from their perspective," said Lakewood Ranch senior Cheyenne Kinyon.
Delazzer said the experience is the same each year. "They get a great sense of satisfaction from this," Delazzer said.
"For many projects there is no real payoff other than a grade, but for this project, they are affecting every student they read to."
Winnie the Pooh and Shakespeare, Too was started by Bashaw Elementary kindergarten teacher Andy Anderson, whose husband, Frank Anderson, was a high school English teacher. She has since retired, but Bashaw and Lakewood Ranch have continued to participate because of the joy it brings to the children.
First-grade teacher Carolyn Thompson said that the elementary students look forward to Winnie the Pooh and Shakespeare, Too every year.
"When they see young adults excited about reading, the children want to participate in reading and writing, too," she said. "Some of the children are even in tears when the high school students leave."
The children listened intently as the high school students read them books about myth and folklore, principles such as saving and earning money, virtues such as patience and sharing, and facts about animals and places around the world.
"My favorite part of the day was making a story from my own head and using my imagination," said third-grader Dashawn Holte, who wants to be either a writer or a comedian when he grows up.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her @ericabearl.