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Read Across Liberty unites kids, community
Keep Liberty Beautiful Chairman Willie Cato shows a picture in a book Thursday at Joseph Martin Elementary. - photo by Danielle Hipps

Leaders across Liberty gathered in schools last week for the fifth annual Read Across Liberty in conjunction with Georgia Cities Week.

On Thursday and Friday, 178 volunteers read a number of classrooms in every elementary school in the county, and another 37 people helped sort, pack and deliver books for every child in the classrooms.

A partnership between the United Way of Liberty County and the Kiwanis Club of Liberty County made the event possible, according to UW executive director Jennifer Darsey.  

“Readers are leaders, and in most cases, you’ll find that a person in a position of authority or a leader is a reader —it’s natural, and you need reading for everything, from math to science,” Darsey said. “It also teaches imagination and free thought.”

The Kiwanis raised money to supplement five grants that allowed the group to purchase more than 4,000 books for $1,600.

“Everybody gets a free book,” Darsey said.

The gifts promote literacy within the home and encourage children to seek alternatives to television and video games.

“Thank you to the community, they’ve done a fantastic job — it doesn’t happen without our volunteers,” she added.

At Joseph Martin Elementary on Thursday, 11 volunteers read to students from kindergarten to first grade, according to media specialist Elaine Walker.

“It shows that other adults believe reading is important. It’s not just the teachers,” Walker said, adding that community involvement is always good for schools.

JME first-grade teacher Robin Abbott said her students always get excited when a visitor comes to read.

“They love to have readers come,” Abbott said. “They’re very curious and interested … they kept asking, ‘When are they going to be here?’”

In her class, students cheered and laughed while KLB chairman and Georgia Power energy service representative Willie Cato read “The Big Elephant in the Room” by Lane Smith.

In addition to reading, each reader also presented each class with a bag of books.

“I didn’t know about getting books, so that was a big surprise,” Abbot added. “I was real excited to get some free books.”

Her students also reacted with enthusiasm when Cato told the class they could keep the books.

“I love the Ninja Turtles,” one student exclaimed.

“Miss Abbott, can I take a test on this book?” another asked.

First-grader Megan Matthews said getting lost in books is one of her favorite hobbies.

“I like to read non-fiction books. I like to read chapter books. I like to read a lot of books,” she said.

When she’s at home, the bookworm pulls books out of her closet and reads to beat boredom.

“I like to learn, too, so that’s all I like to do,” Megan said, adding that having Cato read was fun.

“It may seem boring to other people, but it’s fun to me.”

The best way to foster a love of reading like Megan’s is to allow children to choose their own material, Abbott said. “If you let the kids choose books they’re interested in, they read more.”

“They are learning to read now, but eventually they will be reading to learn,” she said.

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