Clowns make fun out of learning

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It was clowning with a purpose.

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Keith Duncan watches as the Ambassadors of Laughter clowns, Dave and Cherie Gregg of Ringling Bros. and Barnum  & Bailey Circus, put on their act and perform tricks for patients at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital.  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Keith Duncan watches as the Ambassadors of Laughter clowns, Dave and Cherie Gregg of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, put on their act and perform tricks for patients at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital.

On Wednesday, professional clowns Dave and Cherie Gregg entertained while they educated, bringing the pages of a Dr. Seuss classic to life for a group of schoolchildren at Bayvale Elementary.

The clowns are part of an outreach program called Ambassadors of Laughter from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus meant to inspire children to read.

Pupils let out shrieks of laughter as the animated duo read If I Ran The Circus to them, acting out parts of the children's book and blending in their own brand of comedy, including an assortment of voices, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

After the reading, the clowns created their own circus for the children with juggling, dish-spinning and balancing chairs on Mr. Gregg's chin.

Of all their antics, the children seemed to like the juggling the best, but the performance also made an impression on them.

With beaming faces, Maliq Williams, 7, and Ale'yoni Harris, 6, said they enjoyed the show, but they were also excited about reading.

First-grade teacher Travis Sims said the school is preparing to take its second benchmark assessment, and reading is a key component of the test.

"Having them come to the school is actually encouraging them to read," Mr. Sims said of the clowns.

Mr. and Mrs. Gregg have been performing as clowns since 1990. They joined Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey in 1999.

"We try to help instill the idea that reading isn't just fun and fundamental, but it's inspiring," Mr. Gregg said.

That's why the clowns read Dr. Seuss to the children and then performed circus tricks for them -- to demonstrate what the inspiration from books can lead to.

Reading isn't just about homework, but can be fun as well. Mrs. Gregg said she even learned how to juggle by reading a book.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

AMBASSADORS OF LAUGHTER


There are three opportunities today for the public to catch a performance:


- Diamond Lakes Library, 10 a.m.


- Fort Gordon Woodworth Library, 2 p.m.


- Columbia County Library, 6:30 p.m.


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