BROOKSVILLE — Earl Deen shows up on the TV screens in Pine Grove Elementary School classrooms during the school's morning show every day. As principal, he really wants his students to be enthusiastic about reading.
Deen isn't just sitting at his desk, extolling the benefits of literacy. He wants to present books in an eye-catching way — "so that it's not in that sterile environment," he said.
He is filmed outside, and the morning show segment is called "Mr. Deen's Reading Adventures."
"I do them in my front yard," he said — most of the time. He has been known to do some segments on location.
For example, he wanted to impress students with information about a book on big machinery, so he asked his wife to film him at a construction site. Another segment was done while he was visiting Montana. Others have been at the mall and by some railroad tracks.
Many, though, are done in front of his house, where there is a big, old oak tree. Sometimes sandhill cranes stroll by. Occasionally, the neighbor's chickens are squawking.
"Something to get the kids' attention," he said.
He presents a book, giving students highlights and, hopefully, sparking their interest. But, he said, he never gives them the ending. They can only find out what happens by reading the book.
Deen, 60, has been doing the segments for three years.
"I have 550 of them done," he said. "They don't take long to do. They're not big, chapter books. The kids love them. They look forward to them."
The goal, of course, is to encourage the children to read. And they have been racking up Accelerated Reader points. (Accelerated Reader is a computer-based program that awards points according to how well the students taking the tests understand the material.)
"In the last three years, the students have earned over 220,000 AR points," Deen said.
They are currently at about 10,000 so far this year.
Students are rewarded with Accelerated Reader T-shirts in different colors each year.
Deen includes books recommended by the state in his presentations.
"I try to do all the Sunshine State Young Readers Award books," he said, a list of which can be found at myssyra.org/grades3_5/35list.html for elementary school students and at myssyra.org/grades6_8/68list.html for middle-schoolers.
Deen likes what he does and intends to keep it up.
"I'm just trying to model the things that I want them to do," he said.