Here in my community of Conway, Arkansas, we have been providing quality, personalized bookcases and a starter set of books to Head Start children since we began our project back in 2005. Almost from the beginning, the answer to the question, “Does this really make any difference in the lives of these children?” is something we all wanted to know. Well, I am here today to tell you that the answer to this question is a resounding, “YES”!! It does make a difference.
This fact was really brought home back in April of this year during and following our 13th annual Awards Ceremony at the Faulkner County Library. Here are the words of Jennifer Welter, the director of our Community Action Program for Central Arkansas (CAPCA), which includes the Head Start program. Jennifer posted this on Facebook the same day as the banquet.
She begins, “Thanks to Mr. Jim Davidson, the Bookcase for Every Child project has been promoting literacy for 13 years. I have always known what a blessing the Project was, but hearing from a former Head Start child (who received a bookcase in 2005 and is now a sophomore in High School) tell his personal story was touching.”
This driven young man, Jovoni Johnson, already has scholarship offers! He gives credit to reading and in part to the Bookcase Project! Seeing the impact of handcrafted personalized bookcases with a starter set of book in the homes of low-income children is making a difference. As a footnote, I can tell you that this young man was the starting quarterback for the Conway Wampus Cat football team for several games later in the season when the starter got hurt. What was exciting for me is that his scholarship offers were not athletic, but from colleges who were offering him an academic scholarship.
Now, please allow me to put what I have just shared into perspective. In the past few weeks, this true story about Jovoni Johnson and the importance and value of literacy has really been brought home to me and thousands of other citizens here in Central Arkansas. The television stations, radio stations and newspapers have been reporting a wave of violence, including several murders from drive-by shootings that have taken place in Little Rock, our capital city. It has gotten so bad the mayor and law enforcement authorities have been holding public meetings, asking local citizens to attend and offer suggestions as to the best way to deal with this tragic problem.
At a public meeting, one young lady said the problem stems from the youth having nothing to do, and she recommended the authorities structure programs in gyms and baseball fields to keep them busy. She also pointed out the lack of good jobs where these young people could earn some money. However, there is one thing I seldom, if ever, hear at meetings of this type and that is the terrible problem of illiteracy. No way to prove this but I suspect that the vast majority, young or old, of those involved in drive-by shootings and other forms of violence have very poor literacy skills. I personally believe that illiteracy is the root cause for much of the violence we see here and all across the nation.
This is why our Bookcase Project -- presenting 4-year-old children, from low-income homes a bookcase and a starter set of books -- is so very important. We are now in six states and have plans to expand all across America. We hope you will get involved, because it will make a difference.