Young kids sat close to the high school student, pointing to pictures, asking questions about the book being read. They bounced up and down in excitement, laughing at the stories of Dr. Seuss.

On Monday, 17 students from Bridger Alternative High School went to the Hawks Nest Early Learning Center to help kids participate in Read Across America's annual celebration of Theodor Seuss Geisel's birthday. Dr. Seuss would have turned 110 on March 2.

The Hawks Nest is a daycare located in Bozeman High School. It serves the children of school district employees, teenage mothers and families at Thrive.

“I just love reading to kids,” said Faith Wolf, a sophomore at Bridger Alternative. “They listen the best.”

Lynn Powers, a library worker at Bridger Alternative, said volunteering helps the high school students practice what they're learning in speech class.

“It's something great for us,” she said. “They get to experience talking to different audiences.”

Students volunteer frequently with children at the Hawks Nest. Many Bozeman High students receive academic credit for coming in every day. Five to 10 students volunteer each day, and Bridger Alternative frequently puts on fundraisers to help the daycare.

“We are so fortunate to have this facility because of all the resources around us,” said Christel Chvilicek, the childcare director of the YMCA.

YMCA took over management of the Hawks Nest nearly two years ago. Because of the daycare's location, children have access to school events and interact with high school students frequently.

“The kids are exposed to all sorts of cultural experiences,” said Chvilicek.

Children in the Hawks Nest refer to high school volunteers as their “big friends,” and one boy said he likes listening to them read “because it's just fun to relax.”

“I remember having people read to me when I was little,” said Raine Toney, a sophomore from Bridger Alternative. She described how the kids would point out letters they recognized and count different items in the stories.

“Working one-on-one with students went really well,” Toney said. “Given the chance, I would come in again.”

Students read Dr. Seuss books such as “The Cat in the Hat,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “There's a Wocket in my Pocket!” while the kids crowded in to listen.

Children from 34 families are cared for by the Hawks Nest, and the YMCA hopes to give other children similar opportunities.

“Our goal is to open up more childcare facilities so more families in the valley have access to facilities like ours,” said Chvilicek.

Kaitlyn Nicholas can be reached at or 582-2680.