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Horses lend ears to young readersBy Bruce Beck
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.
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