School’s guest readers spark students’ love of books


When the staff at Iddings Elementary School decided to participate in the national program “One School,capt One Book” this fall, they enlisted the help of some local heroes. 

Members of the Merrillville Fire Department jumped at the chance to be a part of a program that educates families and schools on the benefits and importance of reading aloud.

“Being part of the community is very important to us and our department,” said Capt. Phil Hasier. “What better way than to engage kids, especially at a time when teachers are struggling to be creative with all the different challenges they faced over the last year or so. So why not help out in some small way when it comes to educating our children?” 

Merrillville firefighters embarked on the creation of seven videos to kick off each week of reading the book “Charlotte’s Web” for the school. Each video features a firefighter reading a chapter within the context of their own jobs.

Capt. Hasier credits Lt. Scott Molchan as the creative genius behind the videos. 

“He pitched the idea to have different backgrounds,” Capt. Hasier said. “Anyone can sit in a chair and read. What’s special about a fireman reading to kids? He said ‘let’s put some of our stuff in the background,’ and he just kept going.” 

In the video series, Molchan reads his chapter from on top of a fire engine; Firefighter Nick Vansipmaspencer reads from atop an extended aerial ladder in front of the station; Firefighter/Paramedic Adrienne Hammerstein reads her chapter from the inside of an ambulance; and Firefighter Jason Coin reads from a building that appears to be “burning” using video special effects.

Lt. Molchan is featured in another video where he starts to read a chapter while dressed in scuba gear and “magically” changes into regular clothes when he realizes no one would be able to hear him through his scuba mask. 

“We really appreciate the MFD taking the time to engage our students in reading ‘Charlotte's Web,’” said Michelle Coughlin, principal of Iddings Elementary School. “They have been so creative and allowed our students to see different aspects of the fire department that they may not have seen before. The students watch these videos in the classroom and really enjoy seeing community members reading to them.”

Elementary school resource officer Det. Cpl. Allison Ellis and Heather Ulrich from the school corporation’s central office staff, who doubles as a representative of the Faith community, round out the featured readers that mix in with Iddings Elementary School teachers. 

As the teachers and students embrace the book over the next few weeks, they will participate in activities related to it, including coloring and bulletin board contests, taking photos with a “Charlotte’s Web” backdrop, and creating their own webs. 

The school will wrap up the book and activities before fall break by watching the movie.

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