SPRING HILL — Godfrey Eason sat across from four third-graders and asked them to pronounce "veterinarian." They repeated the long, oft-mispronounced word after him in turn, struggling to fit in all the syllables.
If the youngsters were miffed about having to spend part of their summer vacation on schoolwork, it didn't show. They picked up on the enthusiasm that Eason brought to the exercises last week at the Spring Hill Public Library.
Underlying the educational fun was a serious task: helping the children learn skills that could help them pass a test the school district will give later this month to determine if they can move on to fourth grade.
Eason and others were participating in Parents and Students Together, a project of the Spring Hill Kiwanis Club, the Hernando County Public Library System and the Hernando County School District.
Eason, 61, is the principal instructor for this Kiwanian pilot project. He is combining skills he learned as a New York City assistant school superintendent with third-grade level writing, reading and listening activities from the Florida, Maryland and New York departments of education.
The project aims to build on what is being offered to students during extended school year classes (formerly known as summer school). "We reinforce some of the concepts being taught," Eason said.
The program also "fits in with the Kiwanian main theme, which is serving the children of the world," said Al Johnson, 61, another Kiwanian tutor. He said the club wants to expand the program into the fall to provide tutoring after the school year begins.
"It's going extremely well,'' Johnson said, adding, "Mr. Eason is the ideal person for this."
"What we're trying to do," he said, "is teach these kids skills to take the FCAT (and) improve comprehensive skills, so they can attack the test in the correct manner.''
"We have to thank Dr. (Wayne) Alexander and his staff,'' Johnson added. "(The superintendent) is 100 percent behind our efforts, and we need that support from our district."
The children come from West Side, Deltona and Spring Hill elementary schools. Parents are strongly encouraged to accompany their children to the tutoring sessions, which are held Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. The children are required to read a book a week and write book reports.
"My son has learned how to do a book report," said Christian Dreessen , about her son, Zachary, 10. "I think having to do a book report every week has helped him with reading. It's helping him actually enjoy it."
Curtis Clark agreed that the reports are good for his son, Quinlin. "This is the first time he's ever been made to do something like this. He's making good progress."
The parents, Eason said, work with their children and coaches with assignments to be done at home.
Susan Daniels is hopeful about the help her son, John, has been receiving. "It's going to help him focus and concentrate," she said. "They helped him pause and breathe so he could comprehend. I think he's doing a lot better."
Christian Dreessen has been impressed with Eason. "He's really good," she said. "He's really down-to-earth with the kids."