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Merrillville firefighters team up with local school on read aloud project
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Merrillville firefighters team up with local school on read aloud project

Captain Phil Hasier of the Merrillville Fire Department reads a chapter of "Charlotte's Web" to Iddings Elementary School students as part of …

MERRILLVILLE — The Merrillville Fire Department and a local elementary school are teaming up to teach students and families the benefit of reading aloud and show how books can be read just about anywhere.

Iddings Elementary School is participating in the national “One School, One Book,” program this fall through its group reading of “Charlotte’s Web,” according to a news release from the Merrillville Community School Corp.

Merrillville firefighters created seven videos to kick off each week of reading featuring firefighters reading a chapter within the context of their own jobs.

“Being part of the community is very important to us and our department,” Capt. Phil Hasier said. “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?”

MFD FF Nick Vansipma.JPG

Merrillville firefighter Nick Vansipma reads a chapter of "Charlotte's Web" to Iddings Elementary School students as part of the "One School, One Book" program.

In the release, Hasier credited Lt. Scott Molchan for the video idea, especially using different backgrounds in each one. Many people can read while sitting in a chair, but Molchan thought it would be special to throw in some of the settings and equipment unique to firefighting. 

For his video, Molchan read his chapter while sitting on top of a fire engine. Firefighter Nick Vansipma read aloud from atop an extended aerial ladder in front of the station and firefighter/paramedic Adrienne Hammerstein sat inside an ambulance for her reading.

Using video special effects, one firefighter, Jason Coin, read to the kids from a building that appeared to be burning. 

Merrillville firefighter Jason Coin reads a chapter of "Charlotte's Web" to Iddings Elementary School students as part of the "One School, One…

A few videos aren’t necessarily fire station-themed, but still deliver on creativity such as one where Molchan starts by wearing scuba gear and “magically” changes into normal clothes once he realized no one could hear him read.

“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, in the release. “They have been so creative and allowed our students to see different aspects of the fire department that they may not have seen before.” 

Iddings Elementary School

 Iddings Elementary School second grader Spencer Szczepanski poses with the "Charlotte's Web" backdrop to celebrate the school's participation in the national program "One School, One Book." 

Other featured readers include teachers, school resource officer Det. Cpl. Allison Ellis and Heather Ulrich from the district’s central office.

Students and teachers participated in activities related to the book including bulletin board contests, taking photos with a “Charlotte’s Web” backdrop and creating their own webs, the release said. To wrap up the book, the school will watch the movie adaptation before fall break.

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Education Reporter

AnnMarie Hilton is an education reporter for The Times. She grew up in a Chicago suburb and studied journalism at Northwestern University. Before coming to The Times, she worked as a business reporter in Wisconsin.

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