St. Ambrose alumni return to read to students

Three or four years have passed since Lauren Fleetwood, Chloe Baker and Abby Lemming were students at St. Ambrose Catholic School.

While they noticed some changes to the building and some new teachers and staff members during a recent visit, one thing has remained the same: Reading is just as important to them today as it was then.

As part of Read Across America Week activities last week at the Seymour school, the three alumni returned to read to students.

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Baker and Lemming brought their favorite children’s books to read, while Fleetwood let the students pick books from their classrooms.

After reading, each of the girls took a few minutes to answer questions from the students.

“I just love working with kids and getting to talk to kids and interact with kids. Just coming back here is such a cool thing,” said Fleetwood, a senior at Trinity Lutheran High School.

“I was really happy and I was honored because I love all of the kids there. They all know me. They all knew my name,” said Lemming, a junior at Trinity. “I like to read, and I like to help others learn to read, and it was good to be able to go and read to the kids.”

Baker, a senior at Seymour High School, said it was good to talk to former teachers, too.

“They are like, ‘Oh my gosh! You are so grown up and you’re going to go to college,’” she said.

Thursday’s theme was “Reading Gives Us Superpowers.” Kids could wear a superhero shirt or a shirt that makes them feel powerful, and guest readers from the community were invited to visit a couple of classes and read.

Others participating were Seymour City Councilman Matt Nicholson, Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer, Seymour firefighters Ryan Sterling and Mitch Noelker and Jackson County United Way employee Ashley Caceres.

All three of the alumni attended St. Ambrose through eighth grade.

Fleetwood and Baker, who were in the same class, both said they remember being instilled with a love for reading at an early age at St. Ambrose.

“We used to read chapter books together a lot,” Baker said.

“We had the AR (Accelerated Reader) points you had to hit, so you always had to be reading books,” Fleetwood said.

“We would talk about who was on the highest reading list,” Baker added.

From fourth to eighth grade, Lemming said students received two books a year to read. That resulted in her developing a love for reading.

“I’ve been doing that all throughout high school, reading different books,” she said. “It really helps learning in elementary school to start reading.”

When Fleetwood read Thursday, the kindergartners and first-graders picked “Down by the Bay,” which she wasn’t familiar with, and the second-graders chose “Rainbow Fish and the Big Blue Whale,” which is a well-known children’s book.

“I thought maybe it would be a (Dr.) Seuss book. I did not expect that,” she said of the kids choosing “Down by the Bay.”

Baker read “The Peace Book” and “The Giving Tree.”

“I actually just finished reading (“The Giving Tree”) for my speech class, so this was already in my head, but this has just always been one of my favorites because of the illustrations and the meaning,” she said. “Then ‘The Peace Book’ I picked because I love the imagery in it, and it’s always good to be reminded we need more peace.”

In both of the classes she visited, Lemming read “Please, Mr. Panda.”

“My brother has it at my house, and they have it at school, too,” she said. “I was familiar with it. It’s a really cute book with a good moral lesson. The book is about learning to say please.”

Taking some time to visit their former school, the girls hope they made an impact on the kids and instill a love of reading in them, too.

“One of them asked advice I would give them. Always work hard, always try your best in everything. I talked to them about instilling a love for reading because it helps kids grow a lot,” Baker said.

“Be the best you can be,” Fleetwood said of the advice she shared. “Reading is such a great thing. It really helps you out in life, especially starting out at a young age.”

Lemming shared a similar message.

“When you read a book, you can take a lot of things out of it, different lessons, different stories that you can apply to your own life that you can use to help others,” she said.

Sharon Eggers, the preschool teacher at St. Ambrose, organized Read Across America Week activities.

She said the school hadn’t celebrated the special week in several years, so she was happy to receive a good response from the community members and alumni to come to the school and read.

“Our kids, they are confident and they feel good when they are speaking because they’ve read at Mass since they’ve been kindergartners,” Eggers said. “(The alumni) are confident, and I hope (the students) see that and they recognize them, too, because they’ll see them at Mass and different places.”