Toad Master speaks to Greenbrier children, supports Bookcase for Every Child Project

Carol Rolf Originally Published May 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 10, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
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Carol Rolf

Brian Ratliff, The Toad Master of the Toad Suck Daze festival and director of the children’s ministry at Antioch Baptist Church, congratulates Dylan Mullins on receiving a personalized bookcase and a box of books from the Greenbrier Bookcase for Every Child Project. Dylan, 5, is the son of Melinda Smith and is in the preschool program at Westside Elementary School in Greenbrier.

The Toad Master made a special appearance at Greenbrier Middle School on April 30, right before he assumed his official duties May 3-5 at the Toad Suck Daze festival in Conway. Brian Ratliff, aka The Toad Master, was the keynote speaker at the Greenbrier Bookcase for Every Child Project’s second annual awards ceremony.

Ratliff, director of the children’s ministry at Antioch Baptist Church in Conway, jumped right up on the stage in the school’s cafetorium and began his tale, without the use of a microphone.

“I love stories and I love books,” Ratliff told the audience, which included 43 preschool children who were to receive personalized bookcases and boxes of books from the bookcase project, which encourages early reading. “I want to tell you the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.”

As Ratliff told the familiar story of Jack and how he trades the family cow for “magic beans,” the children joined Ratliff as he portrayed the giant: “Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive, or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”

As the story continues, Jack steals from the giant, first his gold, then the hen that lays the golden eggs and finally the golden harp that yells, “Help” and causes Jack to cut down the beanstalk.

“It is true that if you share your wealth, good things will grow,” said Ratliff, who was an assistant principal in the Greenbrier School District, then principal at Vilonia Primary School before taking his current position at Antioch Baptist Church in 2010. “Getting a book and sharing it with kids is like sharing the magic beans that will grow.

“Reading to your kids 15 minutes, three times a week, gives them a significantly higher school rating. It increases their desire to read. It increases their graduation rate from high school. It increases their chance to enroll in college. And it increases their self-esteem.”

Ratliff also shared other statistics. High school graduates make $9,200 more a year than nongraduates. College graduates, over a lifetime, make more than $1 million more than those who have not graduated from college.

He encouraged the parents to “start with a foundation,” he said. “That’s right here. Your kids are significant. I challenge you to read to them 15 minutes, three times a week.

“Spend time with your kids. Have fun. Love on your kids, and tell them stories about things that have happened to you. That’s what they want to hear. Make time for your kids, and let them get to know more about you.”

Prior to Ratliff’s speech, Scott Spainhour, superintendent of the Greenbrier School District, gave the invocation. Members of the Royal Rangers Outpost 207 from Trinity Faith Tabernacle Faith Assembly of God presented the colors. Shawn Johnston, vice president and loan officer for First Security Bank in Greenbrier, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and Addison Duncan, a fifth-grader at Westside Elementary School, sang the national anthem.

Natalie Reynolds, preschool teacher at Westside Elementary School, and Tammy Westerman, second-grade teacher at Westside Elementary, presented the bookcases to the young students.

Billy Joe Abrams, one of several people who built the bookcases, gave the benediction.

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

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