Patchwork elephants were on parade Sept. 12 at the Stewart C. Meyer Library.

Families gathered in the library’s storytime room where they listened to Nicole Penland, Parent-to-Parent team member with the Fort Food Military Child Education Coalition, as she brought the book “Elmer” by David McKee to life.

“I really liked the part when Elmer realized that his patchwork is what made him special and different from all the other elephants,” Hannah Clay, 9, said. “As a military kid, I know how Elmer felt — wanting to be like everyone else — but it’s OK to be different.”

During the reading, Penland engaged children by asking questions and getting them involved in the storytelling process.

“This is all about comprehension and that reading is so much more than just picking up a book, reading it and putting it away,” Penland said, adding that books are great way to teach children different subjects. In Elmer, colors were a central theme.

The early literacy workshops are designed to help model “best practices” for parents as they work to instill a love of books and learning in their children. The MCEC believes that stories have the capacity to open family discussions on potentially difficult topics, such as family separation, deployment, moving, grief and crisis.

The MCEC Fort Hood Parent to Parent team offers reading events typically three to five times each year for military units and communities with a 10 percent military population.

“Children learn best when they can teach things back to you,” said Cathy Sumner, a team leader for the coalition’s Parent to Parent program at Fort Hood. “When they just listen, the retention rate is 10 percent, but when they teach it back to you, it’s 90 percent.”

After the book reading, the group discussed the book’s theme of celebrating individuality, played a color matching game, sang a song and completed a craft.

“We have a solid MCEC Parent to Parent team that serves the greater Fort Hood military community,” said Judy Glennon, program manager. “These military spouses offer workshops at schools, libraries and other organizations on a regular basis.”

Go to and “like” them on Facebook by searching “Parent to Parent — Fort Hood, TX.”

Contact Vanessa Lynch at or 254-501-7567.

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