Byline: Sandy Strickland, Times-Union staff writer
When John Peyton turns 41 July 28, he'll receive an appropriate gift from St. Mark's Episcopal Day School -- books.
It's especially fitting because of Peyton's early literacy campaign, said Ruth Jacobs, who heads the private Ortega school.
Jacobs told Peyton about the school's birthday book club when he came to read to students in grades 5 and 6 last week. On a student's birthday, parents, grandparents and special friends can purchase a book that's blessed at the chapel and placed in the school library. She invited Peyton to return on his special day to receive books that St. Mark's will donate to Jacksonville's public libraries in his honor.
Most weeks during the school year, Peyton reads to students. At St. Mark's, several hundred lined the balloon-festooned walkway to greet him upon arrival. Most knew he was the city's top executive, but one kindergartner remarked that he thought Peyton had "something to do with running the zoo."
Peyton told the children he's made reading a priority because it will affect their ability to land their dream job -- and it's enjoyable.
About 6,300 of Jacksonville's 4-year-olds have enrolled in Peyton's Book Club. Members get a backpack filled with reading tools and a free book focusing on a different part of the city. They receive a new book each month for a year.
In recognition of his program and in appreciation of his visit, school officials gave Peyton two books: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and Dudley: The Little Terrier that Could about a Jack Russell terrier. Peyton, who has two of the energetic hunting dogs, said he would enjoy reading the book between meetings. …