They've been in books and on TV, but last week animals from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium logged time with Wright Elementary School first-graders for a lesson in literacy.
The animals weren't the only visitors to the school April 3. Local public officials and community leaders read to students to promote literacy.
The event, a partnership between the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Dublin City School District, Wright PTO, Dublin A.M. Rotary, Friends of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus Zoo and Dublin Foundation, got students an afternoon of entertainment and copy of the book Zoo Borns.
Dublin branch library manager Michael Blackwell said the library started the annual literacy event last year after receiving a state grant to promote reading in Dublin.
"This year the grant money disappeared," he said.
But several local groups stepped in to help fund the books and appearance from Columbus Zoo animals that included a legless lizard, penguin and fennec fox.
"First-graders are learning about wildlife in class," Blackwell said, adding the book and visit work well with classroom lessons.
About 100 first-graders attend Wright, said Principal Ali Moore, and they were excited.
As Dublin's most diverse school, Wright was the perfect place for the event which was held last year at the library, Blackwell said.
"This is a great place to give kids a book," he said.
Blackwell, also a member of the Dublin A.M. Rotary, said one of the group's goals is to promote literacy.
"For many of the kids this will be their first and only book," he said. "We want them to go away excited about read- ing."
Alison Circle, director of marketing communications for the Columbus Metropolitan Library, said literacy events like the one held at Wright are important, especially at a young age.
"We know through all kinds of research that it pays to catch kids early," she said. "Literacy plays a very critical role."
For Moore, the event will help teachers in the classroom.
"They're getting to hear a message about the importance of literacy from people other than their teachers," Moore said, adding that hearing the same lessons from community leaders can help reiterate how important reading is.
"This applies it to real life. People in government will stress how reading helps them. That may be something (the students) aspire to be."
Although Dublin City Councilmen Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher, Richard Gerber and Amy Salay, and state Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington), were on hand to read to students, Washington Township Fire Chief Al Woo and Dublin Police Lt. John DeJarnette drew the biggest response from students -- until the animals came out.