Snake show promotes reading

Published 7:54 pm Monday, January 10, 2011

Third-grader Rasheed Jeheeb holds a tortoise from John Barnes’ collection of more than 120 reptiles on Monday.

The average person might find little connection between snakes and reading, but Creekside Elementary School Librarian Kim Richardson sees one, and she hopes the students in her schools will, as well.

Richardson invited reptiles and snake enthusiast John Barnes to school this week with an array of reptiles brought from his home in North Carolina.

Barnes and his reptiles will be visiting third, fourth, and fifth grade classes in Creekside Elementary School’s library from all this week.

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“The whole reason to have events like this is to encourage students to read,” Richardson said. “Next week, kids will come into the library and all of my reptile books will be gone.”

Richardson frequently holds special events for the students at Creekside Elementary to encourage them to read more.

She chooses events that might be of interest to her students to engage their interests. After many of these events, students want to learn more and generally check out books surrounding these topics.

Earlier this school year, for instance, Richardson invited firemen to the school during Fire Prevention month that sparked interest in many of the kindergarten students involved.

“It’s all about bringing kids in to read,” Richardson said.

Richardson was inspired to invite JB’s Rattles when she saw an article about him in the newspaper a year or two ago.

“I saw a picture of kids looking at the animals, and I knew right then,” she said.

She decided that she would invite the man to visit her school as soon as she was able to save up enough money.

John Barnes, owner of JB’s Rattles based in Moyock, N.C., travels to Virginia and North Carolina schools with his reptiles to educate students about the history of snakes, snake and reptile varieties, and snake safety, he said. He also hopes to promote nature conservation and a respect for animals.

Barnes’ love for snakes and reptiles began when he caught his first green snake at age 7.

“From that time on, I was hooked on snakes and reptiles,” he said.

Yesterday, Barnes showed third- and forth-grade Creekside students a variety of snakes, a tortoise and a blue-tongued skink. Students were allowed to hold and touch certain snakes, the tortoise and the skink.

Barnes explained how to distinguish between venomous and harmless snakes, and he warned students that they should never try to catch or kill any type of snake, because snakes will defend themselves. He even demonstrated for students how they should walk away when they see a snake.

From snakes, Richardson plans to turn to furrier creatures.

She plans to host an event on Jan. 26 for the younger students that will highlight the SPCA and therapy dogs. She hopes that this will spark an interest in the younger students to begin reading about dogs.

“I want to make them want to leave with a book in their hands,” Richardson said.

“Reading is a lifelong venture. Reading is the key to success,” Richardson says. “If we don’t get them now in elementary school, we might miss them.”