Days with Mr. Norbert

“Deep in the forest a call was sounding, and as often as he heard this call, mysteriously thrilling and luring, he felt compelled to turn his back upon the fire and the beaten earth around it, and to plunge into the forest, and on and on, he knew not where or why; nor did he wonder where or why, the call sounding imperiously, deep in the forest.” —Jack London, The Call of the Wild

These words leap off the page for Robbie*, a child currently in our care in Dothan. As he turns each page of the classic novel The Call of the Wild, it sets his imagination running.

Earlier this year though, it was difficult for Robbie to read through a book, let alone a few pages. With severe ADHD, the idea of sitting down to focus on reading a book for a school assignment was a struggle. Not only that, but he was far behind his reading level for his grade. Things really turned a corner for Robbie, though, when Norbert Sprunger started coming around.

Though Norbert and his wife, Carol, have been devoted supporters of Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes (ABCH) for over 25 years, it wasn’t until recently that they became involved with the children in our Campus Care home in Dothan. 


Back in December, Norbert learned about our home in Dothan (pictured above) through some friends. One thing led to another, and he and his wife took a tour of the campus. From there, a spark ignited in the couple to help beyond just giving. “We met the house parents, and they started talking about Robbie, who has ADHD and sub-par reading skills,” Norbert shared. “They said basically, Robbie just needs someone to read with him.”

It was then that Norbert knew he wanted to help Robbie.

Norbert learned early on that in order to get Robbie’s attention, he would need to find books that would pique his interest. “Norbert has been great at finding things that really speak to Robbie,” said Renee Cartlidge, Administrative Assistant at the Dothan campus. “He finds books on topics he is interested in reading; that way, he is not only reading, but he is also learning.”

Every Tuesday and Thursday, Norbert comes by after school to meet with Robbie. They do not hit the books right away, though. “The first thing I do when I go out there is walk around with him,” Norbert said. “The kids come in from school, so they are still so wired. Walking helps to calm him down. There are some trails and a fish pond close by, so we will sometimes feed the fish there.”

After walking a little bit, they hit the books—but not just any books. Norbert found that Robbie works much better when there are pictures. They not only capture his attention, but also bring to life the words he is reading on the page. “I have made some friends at 2nd & Charles!” Norbert said. “They pointed out that the Classics Illustrated would work really well for Robbie. They are the typical books they would read in class, but they have pictures and illustrations that Robbie really likes. His favorite book right now is The Call of the Wild by Jack London. It has all of the same verbiage, with pictures added in there.”

Norbert’s time with Robbie has been so successful, that he has even started tutoring other kids in the home, including Aden*.

“Oh, Aden loves tractors!” Norbert said excitedly. “I have started reading with him and bringing books about tractors and farming tools, since that is a part of his background. I am even planning to take him and the kids to Farm Days in Dothan. I know Aden will love it, Robbie will ask a lot of questions, and Sam*, another child at the home in Dothan, will want to know everything about the tools there.”

Hearing him describe how each child would react to Farm Days in Dothan truly speaks volumes. At the end of the day for Norbert, it is not just about helping the children to read. He deeply cares for them, and he wants them to know that he does. And the kids there feel the same way.

“Norbert Sprunger is a hero to our ministry,” said Griffin Gulledge, Development Officer in Dothan. “He is not just teaching them to read; he is teaching them about life. For every boy that has spent time with Norbert, it is the highlight of their week. We are grateful to God for the blessing he has given us in Mr. Norbert."

*Names have been changed to protect identities. 


Mr. Norbert Sprunger; we are so thankful for his heart to serve our children!