Originally created 12/15/04

Party builds path to reading for elementary school pupils

Don't buy them candy all the time. Buy a book.

That's the message Principal Ruby Stewart likes to tell parents of children attending Jenkins-White Elementary School. Books are important for developing reading skills and beginning to build a foundation.

The principal was happy to have a book party at her school Tuesday afternoon as Communities in Schools of Augusta-Richmond County and The Augusta Chronicle came together to donate 1,000 books to Jenkins-White pupils.

"It's just trying to get parents and students to value having books in the home. I don't care if it's a comic book or magazine or newspaper," Mrs. Stewart said. "Our goal is to get them to read and comprehend so they can understand what they read."

Research shows that 80 percent to 90 percent of children who don't learn to read by the end of the first grade will never learn to read well, Mrs. Stewart said.

Communities in Schools has been working for two years to build the home libraries of pupils at Jenkins-White, where more than 90 percent of children are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced lunches.

The group's executive director, Mary Crawford, said she knew right where to direct the books when The Chronicle called and offered them.

The book donations were funded through the charity of USA Weekend and First Book, a national organization that has donated 20 million books to children since 2001.

During Tuesday's book party, Chronicle editors Bill Kirby, Elizabeth Adams and Dennis Sodomka took turns reading stories to a group of the school's best readers. The pupils were then given refreshments and a free book.

Each of the school's 412 children are expected to get at least two books to take home and keep.

O'Shea Donaldson, a third-grader, said he was thrilled to get a new book during Tuesday's party.

"I have old books at home. Now, I'll have a new book for the holidays," he said. "And I can read them to my brother."

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.


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