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Donuts for Dads: 250 men read to students at Watts elementary school

November 18, 2009 |  1:53 pm

More than 250 men, including LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, participated in a program this morning at 99th Street School in Watts aimed at getting fathers involved in their children's  education.

Called Donuts for Dads, the program was the brainchild of Principal Sherri Williams, who found that almost every time she called the homes of her students, she would talk to mothers. If a male would answer, he told her the mother was the spokesperson for the family.

After doing some research, Williams found that 50% of students at her school did not have a father living in the same household. In response, she started the program, in which men read to students at the elementary school for an hour.

“I wanted to create a forum where the fathers would feel comfortable,” Williams said.

In one classroom today, student Ryan Fleming excitedly patted Officer Rudolph Baca on the arm to show him his new skills.

“I’m a snail! I’m a snail!” said the first-grader clutching the book “Hooray for Snail.”

After the hour was over, two children near Baca did not want him to leave.

“Next time, I want you guys to read to me,” he told them.

Even though Baca read to the children for only an hour, it had an effect, he said.

“They were very receptive,” he said. “They appreciated it too.”

Henry Hartwell, 60, who volunteered for his granddaughter, Daunwa Brake, said students read to him in Spanish. He said he benefited from having two male relatives read to him.

“I did when I was a child,” he said. “And I’m no different from them.”

-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Watts

Photo: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck reads to third-graders today at 99th Street Elementary in Watts.

Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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