On Oct. 8, some 1,950 children in the Stuttgart military community opened the book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle, and read it from cover to cover in hopes of not only learning about hungry caterpillars, but helping to set a world record for reading.
The massive reading undertaking was part of the fourth annual Read for the Record attempt at getting the most children from around the world to read the same book on the same day. Last year’s record to beat was 700,000.
Readings took place at all three Stuttgart elementary schools, as well as in the Child Development Centers and some Family Home Care locations. Special readings were held at the Patch Library and at the United Service Organizations office on Panzer Kaserne.
“We wanted to ensure as many young children in the community as possible were given the opportunity to read the book,” said Sue Keck, Stuttgart USO programs coordinator.
In support of the Read for the Record objective, the USO, through its “United through Reading” program, donated more than 30,000 copies of the book to USO branch offices around the world, including 2,000 copies to the Stuttgart office.
“Unfortunately, we did not receive all the books prior to Oct. 8, but we did have enough to ensure the people who would be reading to the various groups of children had a copy,” Keck said.
One reader was the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart senior enlisted officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Bryant, who nestled into a comfy reading chair Oct. 8 and looked out toward a sea of 60 first- and second-grade students patiently waiting to hear him read at Böblingen Elementary/ Middle School.
“I was kind of intimidated at first, as the students continued to inch forward, raising their hands and telling me to read the book,” Bryant said. “Most of them knew the words before I could even read them. It was a very interactive session.”
After the reading, the students went back to their classes to talk about the book and were greeted with a little “dirt” project.
“We thought about having the children make a dirt cup, but reconsidered and put a cup of pudding on their desk instead,” said Keck.
The children weren’t upset; in fact, it seems that pudding was even better than dirt, especially when it came to eating.
“I really like the book, especially the part when the caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly,” said first-grader Lexi Baca, “but mostly I liked the pudding. [It was] chocolate; my favorite.”
While the children at the Böblingen and Patch schools were reading, children across town were not only reading the book, but also found out that the author of the book, Eric Carle, had a personal connection with their location.
“Of all the locations around the world that Eric Carle’s book was being read, I was honored to be reading his book at a location where he was stationed as an American Soldier, next to a German town where he attended elementary school,” said William Crane, USAG Stuttgart Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security director, who read to children at the Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School.
The final tally of children around the world who read the book Oct. 8 will not be known for a couple weeks; however, the number of children in Stuttgart rose from 1,600 last year to 1,950 this year.