The minute Roy Lantz walked in the door to Stacee Chong's first grade class, the students surrounded him.
"Mr. Roy! Mr. Roy!" they exclaimed as they rushed to give him a hug.
Lantz visits this class and others at Evans Ranch Elementary School for less than an hour twice a week, but he's treated like royalty. And what does he do to deserve such a special welcome from the students?
He reads to them.
Since the start of the school year, when he contacted the school to volunteer his services, Lantz has been reading out of children's books to students there on a regular basis. That's what he specifically asked if he could do -- read to the children.
And in this week in which Menifee students celebrated the Read Across America program with various activities, the special message sent to the students by volunteers like Lantz made a big difference.
"He offered his services," said Jolanta Brady, a special education teacher who assists with students in Chong's classroom. "He triggers their love for reading because he's very interactive. The students accepted him right away."
As Lantz settled into a chair in a corner of the room to read from a children's book in the "Flat Stanley" series, he often paused to ask students if they had had an experience similar to the characters. Hands shot into the air and the conversation began. The book is always finished, but not without many personal stories that relate fiction to reality.
"I used to read Aesop's Fables to my kids," said Lantz, who spent 20 years in the Air Force and 19 years with the U.S. Postal Service before retiring last summer. "People don't read the classics anymore. I went over to visit my grandkids the other day and my daughter brought out the Aesop's book I used to read to her. She remembers."
Betti Cadmus, public information officer for the Menifee Union School District, used to participate in a reading program for the district. She said the way in which Lantz involves the children in the stories is a key factor in their appreciation of reading.
"I don't even know that he knows he's doing that," Cadmus said, "but he's building a personal relationship between the students and the literature. He shows his passion for reading and the students. This is something other folks can do if they want to get involved."
"It's so sad that fewer kids spend their time reading than in the past," Brady said. "It's important for their development in writing, science, even math. He makes it meaningful for them. When you're a 6-year-old, fun is a big factor in learning."
Lantz reads to four classes at Evans Ranch Elementary and to children at the local state preschool. It appears he has as much fun reading to the students as they do listening to him.
"I won't say I'm a ham, but I do love to be animated," he said. "I like to interact with the children. When I'm with them, I think of my granddaughter. She has teeth missing just like the kids here.
"Last week I asked them, 'You guys can smile, can't you?' Well, I got 25 smiles in return, and they all had teeth missing," he said with a chuckle.
Menifee residents who are interested in volunteering as readers in local classrooms should call Cadmus at 951-813-9773.