A new reading program at Muldrow Elementary School honors the life and sacrifice of 1994 graduate and US Army Master Sergeant Josh Wheeler.
MULDROW, Oklahoma – Any teacher will tell you that reading promotes a love of learning. Now a new program is impacting the lives of children in the River Valley, honoring an American hero who died fighting for our country.
“Of course my biggest hope is that they will find a love for reading,” said Lana Farney, librarian at Muldrow Elementary School.
Muldrow Elementary School uses technology to connect its students with stories through a brand new book machine. Children can earn tokens by making good choices, distributed by all the teachers in the building.
“I was the one who won the medal and the reason I won the medal was because I was good in class and the teacher was helping and I wasn’t talking,” said Kayden Brignac, a third-grader.
“So not only do they get to take home a book that’s theirs forever, we also encourage good citizenship and work hard in the classroom, outside of the classroom,” Farney said.
The machine itself is dedicated to 1994 graduate Muldrow Josh Wheeler.
“He’s an American hero, and he’s the hero of Muldrow’s hometown,” said Tammy Hall, principal of Muldrow Elementary School.
The army sergeant was killed while serving in Iraq in 2015, and his mother-in-law, who is herself a schoolteacher, reached out to the school to do something in his honor.
“She said Josh loved to read, he was a huge reader. She told me a story about how if he read books, he would write notes for his sons at the front of the books. So she thought this was just the perfect idea was, we couldn’t do better,” Hall said.
His family donates money to fill the machine with books and his photo will remind the next generation of his sacrifice.
“Students will see his photo every day. They’ll ask questions about Josh. They’ll research him. And it’s just a great way to keep his memory alive,” Hall said.
“I love that five years from now, kids will be walking down the hall and wondering, who’s that guy over there? So his story continues,” Farney said.
Like the stories in the books that kids are allowed to keep, building a foundation for their future, that’s free, thanks to the service of soldiers like Josh Wheeler.
“And if we can nurture that love of reading, of course they will succeed in school. And that’s where my passion lies. Getting the books in their hands, taking them home and reading them,” Farney said.
There is a memorial outside Muldrow High School in honor of Wheeler’s service and a stretch of Highway 64 between Muldrow and Roland bears his name. The schools say Wheeler’s grandparents still live in Roland and were delighted to hear about this memorial to their grandson which is now in the vending machine.
Family photos of Josh Wheeler
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