Pete the Cat was walking down the street in his brand-new white shoes.
Pete loved his white shoes so much, he sang this song:
“I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes,” the children sang in unison.
So it was Tuesday as a group of second-graders listened to the reading of “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes” at the Boys & Girls Club of the Chattahoochee Valley in north Columbus.
The man reading the book was Todd Daniels, an Aflac executive who, along with his wife, Anne, launched a literacy initiative at the Boys & Girls Clubs to improve reading proficiency among community youths.
The “Read with Me — Learn to Read, Love to Read” program, which targets children in grades K to 5, is available at the organization’s north and south locations. It includes small group read-along and read-aloud sessions Monday through Thursday from 2:45 to 5:30 p.m.
Rodney Close, Boys & Girls Clubs president and CEO, said it’s a community partnership that he hopes will expand to the organization’s other locations.
“We realize that our public school system can’t do it alone, therefore, organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs have got to step up and play a major role in bridging the academic achievement gap with those who need us most,” said Close. “Currently about 60 percent of the kids we serve are proficient in reading, which is not where we would like to be. ‘Read with me — Learn to Read, Love to Read’ will be similar to how most parents engage their kids in reading shortly after birth, which in the long run builds strong readers who will be able to control their future in the long run.”
Todd Daniels is executive vice president, global chief risk officer and chief actuary at Aflac. Anne Daniels is a Girls & Boys Clubs board member with a background in child psychology and education.
Anne Daniels said the family moved to Columbus from Auburn about three years ago. Prior to relocating, they had started a program called the Pine Hills Literacy Project at the a Boys & Girls Clubs in the Auburn area.
“I used to home-school my three kids, and I wanted us to give back to the community,” she said. “Because of their young ages, I was looking for something that we could all do together. So I started bringing books to the Boys & Girls Clubs and reading to children.”
Anne Daniels said the organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The couple already has hired an employee to work at the north Columbus location, she said, and they are looking to hire someone for the south location. They’re also seeking volunteers and donors.
She said schools do a good job teaching literacy, but children usually fall in love with reading outside of the classroom.
“So what we want to do is expose the children to fun books,” she said. “If you want to read about sports or super heroes, we’ll have a book for you.”