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Recommended reading

Horses lend ears to young readers

By Bruce Beck
bruce.beck@amarillo.com

Some schoolchildren Monday got to meet characters from a book as part of a pilot literacy program in Amarillo.

First-graders from Hamlet and Landergin elementary schools received copies of "Little Black, a Pony" and two of the book's stars - Big Red and Little Black - were on hand to encourage the youngsters to read.

"This is a pilot program of the Crown of Texas Arabian Horse Club," said Judy Sanders, a member of the horse club. "Amarillo is pretty low in literacy, and we thought this would be a good community service project."

The proposition is simple, according to the Black Stallion Literacy Project Web site: "Children who learn to read, succeed; children who don't, fail both in school and in life."

Once the Crown of Texas Arabian Horse Club decided to align itself with the Black Stallion Literacy Project, members went to Amarillo Independent School District about a month ago and gave the district the option on which schools would benefit most, said horse club member Mary Herring. Hamlet and Landergin were chosen.

"The children get to connect with the hands-on experience of actually getting to meet the characters," said Landergin first-grade teacher Julie Liedtke.

On Monday, members distributed about 100 copies of Walter Farley's book, and the students got to pet Big Red and Little Black.

The students are expected to read the book so that in two weeks, when they take a field trip to Will Rogers Range Riders, they will be able to read a page each to the horses.

"A horse doesn't judge the child," said Lorrie Van Ongevalle of the horse club. "The child will do their best to read it to them."

The books cost the Crown of Texas Arabian Horse Club $8 each, funded through donations and grants. The club is expecting to distribute a second Farley book to fourth-graders and already is looking to next year.

"If we could get 5,000 fourth-graders (from throughout the Panhandle to participate in the program), the Arabian Nights will put on a show at the Amarillo National Center," Sanders said.

The Arabian Nights Dinner Attraction, based in Kissimmee, Fla., is owned by Mark Miller, who conceived the Black Stallion Literacy Project in 1999 with Farley's son, Tim.

The project and the Crown of Texas Arabian Horse Club is scheduled to visit Vega Elementary School today and Highland Park Elementary School on Friday.

For more information, call (806) 622-2844 or (806) 622-9497.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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