President Jimmy Carter gets kids on track with reading

President Carter asked children how many of them read and liked to read / Sarah Bleau

Conductor's hat on, President Jimmy Carter led a ride for children literacy with some help from Thomas the Tank Engine on Friday.

Nearly 200 children from Sumter County Boys and Girls Club, ASTEP afterschool program for Sumter County and 4-E Learning for a Ride For Literacy joined the former president as he read a Thomas the Tank Engine book for them.

"Thomas likes to go fast but Gordon -- that's the other train -- likes to go faster," he read on Friday.

Before his reading, President Carter addressed the students about the importance of reading.

"You want to read so you can be smart, you want to learn all about the other people in the world right? You want to learn about our country, you want to learn about Thomas the train right?" says President Carter.

Lee Kinnamon, Chief Conductor and Chairman of the Southwest Georgia Railroad Excursion Authority (SAM Shortline), told the children that reading helped to shape President Carter's career.

"President carter as you know had to read and read and read and read lots and lots of things to get where he wound up in the white house," says Kinnamon.

In addition to the former president's reading, Thomas the Tank Engine made a "special delivery" of 200 books to be donated to bring awareness to the program "Learning for Everyone â|Avenue to Progress" (LEAP). It's a program established by President Carter's niece Kim Fuller.

"President Carter taught my daddy how to read a long, long time ago. He would sit there and teach him to read, so it's important to read with your brothers and sisters too," says Fuller.

Before the kids received the books, Fuller told them to use a bookmark instead of folding over the pages because "pages cry when you turn them down."

Her program's namesake implied the theme of the day: reading leads to progress.

"We want everyone to learn how to read so we can make progress in our life. Everyone wants to make progress in your life right? you want to learn more and go to school and have a good time," says President Carter.

While President Carter grew up reading, he says he also grew up around a lot of trains, which inspired him to go along with the kids on a ride aboard Thomas the Tank Engine to his childhood hometown of Archery, Georgia.