For kindergarten classes at James Lane Allen Elementary, Friday the 13th was quite their lucky day. More than 60 youngsters gathered outside after lunch to greet Hank the Horse, a community ambassador that inspires children to read and encourages good citizenship. Hank’s visit coincided with their ABC countdown to the end of school, and it happened to be “H” day.
“They’re just so excited to have something different. It gave them something to look forward to, and it ups their level of engagement in the activity,” said teacher Dana Bradford, who scheduled the event.
Beforehand, the students had colored pictures of Hank and filled in worksheets with vocabulary words that described who they are, what they love, or what they do best. For instance, “Hank” is happy, adventurous, noble, and kind.
Last semester, Bradford ran across Hank on Twitter and first invited him to James Lane Allen in December. The students were enthralled as the horse – dressed like an elf – demonstrated how he rings the bell for the Salvation Army’s holiday drive. When Bradford’s class covered a unit on community helpers, she talked about how the children could “Be like Hank.” His bell ringing was a tangible example they could understand. “Everybody plays a part,” as Bradford explained. The students also tried on costumes or aprons representing various helpers like police officers, firefighters, doctors, and construction workers, and they wrote about “I want to be …”
Tammi J. Regan, who runs the Paris-based nonprofit called For Hank’s Sake, rescued this Tennessee walking horse about 10 years ago. Now, he is quite the local celebrity. “Through these visits, children get to experience the joy of meeting a horse in real life,” Regan said. “One of Hank’s missions is to help kids discover their passion for reading. Hank regularly visits schools and libraries throughout Kentucky to promote literacy excellence and empower kids to read more while having fun.”