LAKELAND – On Wednesday, children at the God Little Helpers Childcare Center on East Memorial Boulevard met a real queen.
Miss Lakeland 2022 Lindsey Franxman, 25, donned her tiara and headband when she visited the nursery to read to nearly a dozen students “I Can Be Anything! Don’t Tell Me I Can’t ”by Diane Dillon. The book is a Caldecott Award winner and focuses on empowering, overcoming obstacles, and ignoring that little voice in your head that says you can’t.
“Something very important to me is reading – reading and writing – because I think it will help you guys in the future,” the beauty pageant queen told them before opening that book and starting to tell them the story. “No matter what you decide to do in the future, reading is going to be very, very important.”
Franxman, who was crowned Miss Lakeland in January as part of the Miss America Organization, has made child literacy her platform. She started a podcast called “Her Story,” which aims to inspire and empower girls by telling the stories of female role models, and partnered with the Polk County Early Learning Coalition, which promotes early childhood literacy and helps entrepreneurs to open and manage crèches.
“What I learned after, you know, an extra year of closures – with many children unable to attend school regularly – I learned of the insidious ways in which illiteracy perpetuates itself in many communities, including mine in Central Florida.” Franxman said. Statistics make you think. Two-thirds of children from low-income families do not have access to books and 90% of children in juvenile detention centers are functionally illiterate. And what’s more, at the age of 6, girls already see themselves as inherently less talented than boys. “
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ELC officials said an estimated 24 percent of adults in Polk County are functioning at the lowest literacy level, which is 3 percentage points higher than the national level of 21 percent, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics .
“A childhood illness that nearly took my sight has taught me to love my love of reading, writing and stories as the ignition of my dreams,” said Franxman, who suffered from optic neuritis as a child. “But I’ve learned that too often, lack of access to books hinders the development of reading skills in early childhood, effectively blocking children from stories and skills that could ignite their future. By providing interesting and inspiring stories to children, they have fun and are further motivated to improve their literacy skills. In my book, inspiration and confident communication skills equate to empowerment. ”
As part of “His Story”, Franxman visits daycare centers and reads with the children. For those who show more interest and participation, he rewards them with a book of their own.
She had previously worked with middle school students interested in theater, but realized that getting children on the right path before they even start school is vital to future success.
“Often, they are so far behind that it is so difficult to reach them where they need to be, from a literacy standpoint,” he said. “Literacy promotes confidence, critical thinking, leadership skills. These are things that are essential, regardless of what the children decide they want to do someday. ”
When not in daycare, Franxman carries out his daily work as a communications and public relations specialist with the Port Orleans resort of Walt Disney World. She likes to say that she knows Princess Tiana from the movie “The Princess and the Frog”. Franxman grew up in Northern Kentucky and she wasn’t interested in competitions until she was in college.
Miss Lakeland is the fifth title of the contest that Franxman has held. She spent two years during the pandemic as Miss Orlando, using the scholarship money to earn a master’s degree in communications from the University of Florida.
Early Learning Coalition CEO Marc Hutek is delighted to partner with Franxman.
“I think it’s great that Ms. Franxman has the ability to use her position as Miss Lakeland to advance her literacy platform,” Hutek said. “There are very few issues that impact a community like literacy does. It’s definitely a win for Lakeland as she promotes it and ELC appreciates the message it delivers.”
When he finished reading the book, which is about all the things children dream of being, Franxman went around the room to ask the children about their dreams. There were future firefighters, police officers, a dancer, a child doctor and, of course, Spiderman.
Franxman’s next big dream is to win the Miss Florida title in June at the RP Funding Center. After that there is the Miss America pageant in the winter.
Ledger reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.