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Dog days at Pearl River Central Upper Elementary

Photo by Cassandra Favre Children’s author David M. Sargent, Jr. and his dog Daphne, delighted the students at Pearl River Central Upper Elementary on Monday. The event was held in conjunction with the kickoff of the school’s Accelerated Reader program.

Photo by Cassandra Favre
Children’s author David M. Sargent, Jr. and his dog Daphne, delighted the students at Pearl River Central Upper Elementary on Monday. The event was held in conjunction with the kickoff of the school’s Accelerated Reader program.

The students and faculty at Pearl River Central Upper Elementary have gone to the dogs. Literally.

The students were treated to a special author event Monday, that featured children’s book author David Sargent, Jr. and his three furry friends.

The fun-filled event was held during the school’s Accelerated Reader kickoff of International Literacy Day.

School librarian Karla Strahan said the AR program is a motivational reading program designed to spark students’ interests in reading.

The students first take a test to determine their reading level, Strahan said. They read books at their specific level and complete quizzes based on their particular literature.

“The children read fiction and non-fiction books,” Strahan said. “At the end of the first nine weeks, we have a party for the students who have reached their AR goals and at the end of the year we have an even bigger party for those that met their goals all four of the nine-week periods.”

The students and faculty were encouraged to dress up as their favorite literary characters, the school’s social worker Paula Russell said.

“I can definitely tell the students enjoy our reading promotions and events,” Russell said. “The students are motivated by tangible reinforcers and knowing that helps teachers keep them excited throughout the year.”

Sargent is from Fayetteville, Ark. and said he grew up on a dairy farm in West Fork.

Sargent has been an author for the past 19 years and is the author of 57 books for children in grades Pre-K through fifth.

“My books are non-fiction and they center around the lives of my dogs,” Sargent said. “I currently have two Dachshunds and one Pomeranian.”

Sargent said he visits about 300 schools a year, beginning in mid-August.

During the presentations, Sargent introduces the students to his furry friends, who perform a variety of tricks to the children’s delight. He also reads from one of his books.

Sargent said he enjoys telling the children about the book writing process and relating it to their everyday lives.

“I tell the children that just because I write down a story, that doesn’t make it a book,” Sargent said. “I don’t worry about sentence structure, I worry about getting the story out of my head and down on the paper. My editor performs the same tasks as their teacher does when they proofread my work.”

Sargent said he enjoys writing about his dogs because it’s more personal for him and he can relate to those stories more than any other.

Sargent has three series including Doggie Tales, Best Friends and Feather Tales which is about birds native to North America. He has plans to begin a new series about sight words.

“My main message for children is that they write about the things they see and know,” Sargent said.

After the presentation, Sargent held a book signing and meet and greet for the children.

Assistant Principal Dr. Diana Sweigart said the school is committed to doing anything to motivate their students and create life-long lovers of reading.