COLUMBIA — As they sat in their book character costumes Monday, students at Mill Creek Elementary School listened while MU basketball player Marcus Denmon read Halloween stories.
Denmon was one of several guest speakers at the school for a fall celebration and book event. It was originally a PTA fundraiser but has since become an event to inspire reading among students.
“We do it simply to promote the love of reading and encourage reading,” Mill Creek Principal Mary Sue Gibson said.
Instead of wearing Halloween costumes, students at Mill Creek dressed as their favorite book characters. A first-grader was "The Cat in the Hat," and some fifth-graders dressed as the sleuth, Nancy Drew and Junie B. Jones.
The Mill Creek PTA recruited Denmon, seven other MU basketball players, two football players, MU Athletics' Gary Link, Miss Missouri, parents and others to read to the children, PTA president Nicole Morris said.
“I just think this is a great program,” said Sydney Friar, the current Miss Missouri. “It gives children the opportunity to dress up and is an educational program as well.”
As Friar left a fifth-grade classroom, Denmon entered carrying a KU lunchbox.
He playfully teased a student he would later refer to as “Jayhawk" but was a good sport throughout the day as he answered questions.
"Kids are able to see someone as role models," Denmon said when explaining his reasons for participating in the event. "It gives them the incentive to do what they need to do in school."
Morris talked about the importance of having role models like Denmon read to the students.
"Who knows what this day may hold for someone? It may spawn something in them that will help them achieve greater things in life," Morris said.