Miss Lakeland makes children’s literacy a passion

LAKELAND — Pre-kindergarteners at God Little Helpers Childcare Center on East Memorial Boulevard got to meet a real-life queen on Wednesday.

Miss Lakeland 2022 Lindsey Franxman, 25, donned her tiara and sash as she walked into daycare 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 Prize winner that focuses on empowerment, overcoming obstacles and ignoring that little voice in your head that says you can’t.

“What is very important to me is reading – reading and writing – because I think it will help you in the future,” the beauty pageant queen told them before opening the book and start telling them the story. “No matter what you decide to do in the future, reading will 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 has partnered with the Polk County Early Learning Coalition, which promotes early childhood literacy. early childhood and helps entrepreneurs open and run child care centres.

“What I learned after, you know, over a year of lockdowns – with many children unable to attend school regularly – I learned the insidious ways in which illiteracy is perpetuated in many many communities, including mine in Central Florida,” says Franxman. The statistics are sobering. Two-thirds of children in low-income households have no access to books, and 90% of children in juvenile detention centers are functionally illiterate. And what’s more, at 6 years old, girls already consider themselves naturally less talented than boys.

In addition to spending time reading in class, Lindsey Franxman started a podcast called "His history," which aims to inspire and empower girls by telling the stories of female role models

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ELC officials said in Polk County, an estimated 24% of adults are operating at the lowest literacy level, 3 percentage points higher than the national level of 21%, according to the National Center. education statistics.

“A childhood illness that nearly blinded me taught me to cherish my love of reading, writing and storytelling as the engine of my dreams,” said Franxman, who suffered from optic neuritis in his childhood. “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 the stories and skills that could ignite their future. By providing interesting stories and inspiring to children, they have fun and are more motivated to improve their literacy skills.In my book, inspiration coupled with confident communication skills equates to empowerment.

As part of “Her Story”, Franxman visits daycares and reads with children. For those who show the most interest and participation, she gives them a book of their own.

She had previously worked with middle school students who were interested in acting, but realized that getting kids on the right track before they even started school is critical to their future success.

K'Harri Edward asks Miss Lakeland Lindsey Franxman a question during her visit to God Little Helpers Daycare in Lakeland.

“A lot of times they’re so behind that it’s so hard to catch up with them where they need to be, in terms of literacy,” she said. “Literacy promotes confidence, critical thinking and leadership skills. These are things that are essential no matter what children decide to do one day.

When not in daycare, Franxman is at her day job as a communications and public relations specialist at the Walt Disney World resort in Port Orleans. She likes to say she knows Princess Tiana from the movie “The Princess and the Frog.” Franxman grew up in Northern Kentucky and wasn’t interested in pageants until she was in college.

Miss Lakeland is the fifth pageant title 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 pleased to partner with Franxman.

“I think it’s great that Ms. Franxman has the opportunity to use her position as Miss Lakeland to further her platform on literacy,” Hutek said. “There are very few issues that impact a community like literacy. It’s definitely a win for Lakeland because they promote it and the ELC appreciates the message they bring.

Tianna Colston and Tailor Aker sing a song to Miss Lakeland Lindsey Franxman at the God Little Helpers Childcare Center.

As she finished reading the book, which is about everything kids dream of being, Franxman walked around the room asking the kids about their dreams. There were future firefighters, police officers, a ballerina, a baby 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, it’s the Miss America pageant in the winter.

Ledger Reporter Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.