Former President Carter reads “Thomas and the Jet Engine” with officials from the Sam Shortline Railroad before a literacy event Friday in Plains. Carter joined officials with Thomas the Train to promote the importance of literacy to children from around Sumter County.
PLAINS — Former President Carter got a little help from a well-known train engine Friday, explaining the value of learning to read with hundreds of children from the Sumter County School System.
Thomas the Tank Engine, a fixture in children’s literature and entertainment since the first book was penned almost 65 years ago, rolled into the Plains train depot Friday at the back of the Sam Shortline Express to drop off more than 200 books to underscore the importance of childhood literacy.
Boarding Thomas and the Sam Shortline Friday alongside the children were the 39th president and officials from a pro-literacy group from Sumter County who will put the books to use in homes and schools throughout the county.
“If you can read, you can make progress in your lives,” Carter told the children. “Reading is one of the foundations for success, no matter what you want to be when you grow up.”
Carter read “Thomas and the Jet Engine” to the children before boarding the train and traveling with them to his childhood home in nearby Archery.
E.J. Minor, vice president of Marketing for Hit Entertainment — the company that produces the television series — told children that he’s proud to be able to promote a meaningful moment in the lives of the children of Sumter County through Thomas.
“This isn’t just about reading books, but one day you’ll be able to share you stories about your day with Thomas here with the president with your children,” Minor said.
Kim Fuller, the niece of the president and executive director of LEAP, a program that promotes both childhood and adult literacy, told the children how the president had taught her father — Carter’s younger brother Billy — to read when he was just a child and how the importance of reading stuck with him on into adulthood.
“I grew up in a household where we read all of the time,” Fuller said. “Largely because the president taught my father how important reading was, or at least that’s the way the story goes,” she said, looking toward the president and laughing.
Thomas will be hanging around the Sumter and Crisp County area for the weekend, making appearances at Veterans State Park on Lake Blackshear today and Sunday.