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April 13, 2011

Embracing books

Indiana first lady stresses importance of reading.

Kindergartners at All Saints Elementary School enjoyed a visit from Indiana’s first lady on Tuesday.

Cheri Daniels brought with her a message about the importance of reading to become successful. The pupils of Patty Brown’s class welcomed the first lady with a greeting in unison, “Good morning, Mrs. Daniels.”

The wife of Gov. Mitch Daniels noted how well behaved the children were as she made her way to a chair positioned next to a cardboard television.

Daniels asked, “Who watches TV?”

Every kindergartner raised his or her hand. The students also raised their hands when the first lady asked whether they liked to have books read to them.

“Books are one of the best ways to go on an adventure, and you don’t even have to leave home,” Daniels said.

Daniels brought the book, “Penny Lee and Her TV,” by Glenn McCoy.

The children sat on the floor listening intently as Daniels read about Penny watching TV all day. Penny had no friends and did not need any because her TV kept her company. She even slept on her TV and had commercial breaks in her dreams, Daniels read.

“That sounds like a lot of TV to me,” commented Daniels.

When the TV broke, Penny considered it a disaster, but it got her to go outside, where she noticed bright colors she could not adjust with her remote control.

On her way to a TV repair shop, Penny wound up jumping rope with the TV cord, swimming in a pond, fishing in a creek, drawing pictures on the sidewalk and finding shapes in the clouds.

By the time Penny arrived at the repair shop, the store was closed, but she did not care. Her reliance on TV had faded, and that night she had commercial-free dreams.

The kindergartners said they liked the book. Brown told Daniels that she planned to turn the message of no TV into a series of classroom lessons.

“Next week, we’re going to be talking about all of the things we can do instead of watching TV,” Brown said.

Brown said the kindergartners would be writing down their activities in a book each day.

One said he would pick flowers. Another said he would look for butterflies.

The children got a chance to ask the first lady a few questions. The one that got the most response was about her family pet, a bearded collie named Nigel.

“He’s a very bad boy,” Daniels said.

She recounted how the dog had eaten at least seven of her shoes, but none of the governor’s shoes.

“I’ve tried to get him interested in a pair of the governor’s shoes, but he won’t touch them,” she said.

Nigel has also eaten a package of candle wax and part of a couch, which triggered a story from a child about opening a package of spaghetti after his father had asked him not to and the pasta spilled all over the couch.

Daniels jokingly asked if anyone wanted the dog, but no one accepted her offer of a dog that ate shoes, couches and candle wax.

Daniels said she enjoyed being first lady because she gets to travel the state and attend the Indiana State Fair.

“It’s lot of fun to be the first lady of Indiana,” she said.

Daniels also said she liked to read, go for walks, play golf, see movies and spend time with family and friends. Her favorite foods are steak and spaghetti.

“Thank you, Mrs. Daniels,” the class said after each answer.

The class sang the first lady two songs and gave her three gifts.

Before Daniels opened the first present, a girl said, “You’re going to love it.”

The kindergartners gave Daniels a journal signed by each of them, a matching pen and a calendar they made especially for her.

In return, Daniels gave each student a bracelet that said, “I love to read.”

• Kevin Lilly is news editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5117 or


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