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story.lead_photo.caption North Little Rock firefighter Matthew Kolb reads the book I Like Me to Reco Reed, 5, in Jana Thomas’ kindergarten class Thursday at Amboy Elementary School in North Little Rock. About 670 of the personalized books were given away to kindergarten students in North Little Rock school district by the North Little Rock Rotary Club. More photos at arkansasonline.com/126nlrbooks/. ( Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / Thomas Metthe)

Numerous kindergarten students in the North Little Rock school system have taken part in the I Like Me reading program over the past 20 years, and now some of them are passing down the values they learned years ago in the same program.

Every year the North Little Rock Rotary Club sponsors the I Like Me reading program, which promotes early-age literacy and self-esteem by using the personalized books. The books are published through Kindergartners Count Inc., a nonprofit organization in Topeka, Kan.

Each book contains the child's name, and the names of the child's two best friends, teacher, principal and school. The story contains a message about learning to do the right things, staying in school, learning to read, staying away from harmful substances and developing self-esteem.

"For many of these students, this will be the first book they have ever owned," John Hall, a spokesman for the Rotary Club, said in a news release.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJvUP1YRvTI]

Twenty members of the EAST (education accelerated by service and technology) class at the North Little Rock High School West campus and Rotary Club volunteers collected all of the information needed to individualize about 670 books.

Tanner Wenger, an EAST student who volunteered to read to students at the elementary schools, said he remembers getting his I Like Me book.

"I guess I am passing it down," he said with a laugh. "It has been pretty fun, and it has brought back a lot of memories."

Jana Thomas, a kindergarten teacher at Amboy Elementary School, said this was her first year at the school, but she already likes the yearly reading program.

Gallery: Rotary Club Gives Books to Students

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/126nlrbooks/]

"It really helps them move into reading, and they are really excited about it because their own name is in the book along with their friends," she said. "This will also be a keepsake they can keep for many years."

Around 100 volunteers, including police officers and firefighters, were at schools reading the books to students and interacting with them, as well.

"I think it helps build trust with the younger generation," said Sgt. Amy Cooper, a North Little Rock police spokesman. "This program allows them to see us at a positive light instead of a negative one."

Many of the volunteers asked questions of the students throughout the reading session.

"I want to be a police officer," said Mireacle Wilson when asked what she wanted to be when she grows up.

Crystal Barker, a parent engagement coordinator for the school district who was reading the book to Mireacle, encouraged the early career decision.

"We need more officers like you," she told the young girl.

Barker said her favorite part of reading to the students is watching the excitement on their faces.

"She was so happy to see her name in the book," Barker said. "I think it's great we put them in a book and not just on Facebook."

Barker called the experience a blessing and mentioned trying to get a personalized book for her nephew for Christmas.

"I think parents should drive the values that are in this book over and over again into young children," she said. "I think it's great we start telling kids to love themselves at a young age."

Photo by Thomas Metthe
North Little Rock police officer Sgt. Amy Cooper high-fives students Thursday in Jana Thomas’ kindergarten class at Amboy Elementary School in North Little Rock after the children received copies of the I Like Me book. More photos at arkansasonline.com/126nlrbooks/.

State Desk on 12/06/2019

Print Headline: North Little Rock reading program puts books in hands of kids

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