'Tell Me a Story' welcomes CSM Kelley as guest reader

Sgt. Brandon A. Bednarek, Fort Bliss
Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 10:55pm

To kick off the inaugural reading of Verdi, Fort Bliss and 1st Armored Division senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley sat down with military parents and children, May 16, as part of the Fort Bliss Parent to Parent’s free Tell Me A Story program at the Family Resilience Center at West Fort Bliss.

Accompanied by his wife, Alice, Kelley ushered an audience of nearly 75 children on the slithering adventure of Verdi, a Janell Cannon book that follows the tale of a yellow python and his struggles with change and transition.

The story begins with a young Verdi gawking at the idea of growing up into a lazy, green-skinned adult. As he continues along his journey of opposition, however Verdi’s youthful energy and pride land him in several unlucky situations. Guided by three adult pythons and his newfound experiences, Verdi realizes although change is inevitable and sometimes scary; it doesn’t have to change who or what you are on the inside. 

“The parallel between the story and our military lifestyle is that we are constantly changing and adapting,” said Blythe Hogeboom, team leader for the Fort Bliss Parent to Parent. “(Tell Me a Story) creates a parent-child bond while emphasizing literacy, which is a key skill,” she said.

Under the collaborative partnership between the Army and the Military Child Education Coalition, the Fort Bliss Parent to Parent initiative is able to use the Tell Me a Story program as a means of discussing important military-family related topics, while providing an outlet for children to personally identify with the book’s themes and messages through small-group discussions.

“These family literacy events show children that their parents are in support of their education,” said Kerri Barefield, who also works with the Parent to Parent program. “I absolutely think (the children) get what we are trying to put out. The group discussions really help them understand and make those connections.”

“This program is a great way to provide educational points while engaging children in a family-fun atmosphere,” said Kelley. “I think it is outstanding how people from our community are taking time to make sure our children are developing properly.”

The TMAS experience represented more than just a book reading for Kelley, it was an opportunity to interact with Fort Bliss families and play a small part in their children’s education.

“I really enjoyed meeting each one of the children, learning their names, and signing their books,” he said. “I love kids.”

Kelley also stressed the importance of getting involved with family organizations and encourages senior leadership from all Fort Bliss units to recognize the potential impacts of their participation.

“If we make it important to us as leaders, and we participate in it, it will be important to our subordinates, and, in turn, their families,” said Kelley.

The involvement of senior leaders is also a draw for TMAS coordinators, who seek to garner greater turnouts by incorporating commanders and command sergeants major as their guest readers.

“We invite senior leaders to read because they are recognizable figures here at Fort Bliss,” said Barefield. “That’s who our military families relate to, so we want to create that connection and show them that the leadership here is supportive of the families and children of Fort Bliss.”

To commemorate the event and show appreciation for his support, the Fort Bliss Parent to Parent team honored Kelley with his own special copy of Verdi that was signed by all the children who took part in the event.

For more information on the TMAS program, or to RSVP for upcoming events, visit the Parent to Parent Fort Bliss Facebook page or email ptop.bliss@militarychild.org. 

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