On Monday, January 28, a few dozen students were running around the playground at Johnson Elementary School when they heard the sound of a loud engine approaching.

Heads turned as a green-and-white stock car barreled down the street towards the playground, only to stop right outside the fence. Children ran over to see who it was – and a man in a Green Lantern suit popped out of the window and said, “Hey kids! Who likes to read?”

It may seem like an unlikely pairing – a stock car, a superhero suit, and reading – but Troy Kingsbury races stock cars at Thunder Road in Barre, VT, and he believes strongly in encouraging children to read. In fact, he now has a program called Race to Read that promises children that if they read 15 books, they can sign their names on the hood of Troy’s bright green race car.

In Johnson on Monday, he made his first appearance as a CLiF presenter to help children understand that reading is a big part of his job as a good race car driver. He asked students why they thought reading was important to racing. They responded by saying things like, “So you can read your car’s manual!” and “So you can learn how not to crash!”

He told them they were all correct and went on to explain the different ways that reading helps him be a better driver. He then showed students the various parts of his car – the engine, the wheels, the signatures on the hood – and tied each little part to something he has learned through a book.

Afterward, each student warmed up in the school library to hear about all the new books CLiF had brought as part of Johnson’s participation in CLiF’s Year of the Book program. Julia Rogers, CLiF’s program coordinator, and Deb Stender, the school librarian, gave book talks about several of the hundreds of new books that were on display. They also asked students to recommend books to their peers. Then each student was able to choose two brand-new books to take home and keep for their own.

By the end of the day, nearly 250 students from kindergarten through sixth grade had the chance to meet Troy, check out his car, learn about why he thinks books and reading are important, and go home with two brand-new books for their home library.

What a day!

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