Preschoolers receive bookcases in ceremony at Faulkner County Library

Carol Rolf Originally Published April 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 26, 2013 at 9:47 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Brianna Matheu, the 5-year-old daughter of Juan Carlos Lopez and Gemil Lisseth Lopez of Conway, shows some of the books she will put in her personalized bookcase. Brianna is enrolled in the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas’ Head Start program and will attend kindergarten in the fall.

Fifty preschoolers who came to the Faulkner County Library listened to a tongue-twisting tale of a pig and left with personalized bookcases and their own books to enjoy.

The Conway Bookcase Project, part of A Bookcase for Every Child, hosted the children and their parents April 21 at its ninth annual awards ceremony under the direction of Jim Davidson, founder of the organization. Davidson said A Bookcase for Every Child encourages reading at an early age to help decrease illiteracy. In addition to the Conway project, Davidson said, there are projects in Greenbrier and Mayflower in Faulkner County, in Wynne, and in four other states.

Davidson said that because the bookcase program was started in 2005, 450 bookcases, which are handmade by a local group of volunteers, have been given away in Conway. In addition to the bookcase and books, each child received a “reading buddy” with a specialized name tag made by Crystal Spellmann of Conway, a small Bible, and a personalized bookmark made by Patsy Desaulniers of Conway, a member of Friends of the Faulkner County Library.

Kathy Powers, 2011 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, was the keynote speaker.

“This is such a meaningful project, caring for our children,” she told the audience. “We read to them to develop their minds.

“Readers are more informed citizens. Readers are three times more likely to attend performing arts [functions], four times more likely to visit libraries and museums, one and one-half more times likely to participate in sports.

“Children who do not read are three times more likely to drop out of school. … It is estimated that illiteracy costs the public $20 billion a year.”

After reciting more facts and figures, Powers, who teaches literacy at Carl Stuart Middle School in Conway, brought out her reading buddy, Piggy, whom, she said, told her she had given enough statistics and she should read the book, The Piggy in the Puddle, by Charlotte Pomerantz.

Those in the audience, especially those who had never read or heard the book, clapped and laughed to the nonsensical verses of the book about a young pig that refuses to leave the mud puddle, much to the dismay of her family. In the end, the whole family gets into the puddle.

Read or sing along: “See the piggy, see the puddle, see the muddy little puddle, see the piggy in the middle, of the muddy little puddle. … Mud is mooshy, mud is squooshy, mud is oh so mooshy-squooshy.”

After the laughter died down, Powers told the preschoolers, “You can read along with your reading buddy now. You really don’t have to know how to read very well to read this book, as many of the words don’t even make sense.”

And she told the parents, “Thank you for what you do.”

Mary Boyd, director of the Conway Housing Authority, presented Ruth Voss, recently retired director of the Faulkner County Library System, with a plaque of appreciation from the Conway Bookcase Project Committee. Voss is a member of the committee and offered to host the awards ceremony in the Conway library several years ago.

Voss accepted the award, saying, “I am pleased to have worked with giants in this community in this endeavor. The No. 1 way to make readers of young students is to read to them every day.”

She repeated this remark in Spanish.

Others on the program included Tim Kellerman, pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene, who gave the invocation; members of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps at Conway High School, who presented the colors; Conway Police Chief A.J. Gary, who gave the welcome; Bill Clements, a member of the Conway School Board, who introduced Powers; Mickey Cox, a member of the Conway Bookcase Project, who presented the bookcases; and Bobby Tucker, associate pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, who gave the benediction.

For more information on A Bookcase for Every Child, visit www.bookcaseforeverychild.com.

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