February 9, 2013 7:38:00 PM
I remember my very first book. "Katie the Kitten" was the story of "a small tiger cat, asleep in the hall, in a ball, in a hat." I could go on, but will spare you.
I do not know if my mother gave me the book because I loved cats, or if I have forever loved cats because of that book. No matter. In every photo taken of me as a child, I am holding a cat.
There are few things that have the power to influence a person's entire life. A book is one of those things. One organization in our area recognizes that, and is working to help build a personal library for children who may never have had a chance to own a book.
The Greater Golden Triangle Local Advisory Board is a charter member of First Book, a national non-profit organization. Their goal is simple: to wipe out illiteracy, and to help children start their very own personal library. The national organization has distributed over 100 million books since their founding in 1992. The Golden Triangle chapter raised almost $12,000 in 2012 alone for the purchase of new, age-appropriate books for young readers in our area.
The books have been donated to children in Lowndes, Clay, Noxubee and Oktibbeha Counties. They are given to schools, day care centers, Boys and Girls Clubs, HEARTS, Head Start programs -- the list goes on.
Qua Mattix Austin (current vice president and past president First Book Greater Golden Triangle Local Advisory Board) tells one of the many success stories. "At the Head Start in West Point, a 4-year-old child took the book home and brought it back to school the next day for Show and Tell. He retold the entire book," she said. "This is one of many reading skills a child must learn to be a proficient reader. He was able to pick out the important parts of a story, put them in sequence and be able to retell them in his own words." Bravo! Impressive, too, that such a young child can read at all.
Giving a child their first book is a step to starting them on a lifetime of exploration. This small gesture will evolve into a love of reading and learning. The result is higher test scores, better vocabulary, a broader view, and, consequently, a smarter population. That affects us all.
New books, as we know, can be quite expensive. The wonderful work of First Book is financed by donations, corporate sponsors and passionate volunteers. To become involved you can contact them by email (email@example.com) or find our local chapter on Facebook. You can also learn much more about First Book at firstbook.org.
Qua Austin said, "Reading is the portal to freedom. Through the pages of a book a child's mind expands. A whole new world is created and becomes magical. A child can go anywhere, do anything, become whoever his or her heart desires, transcend space or take quantum leaps and bounds. Dreams become reality!"
My childhood was filled with many fantastic hours of my parents reading stories and poems to me. When I was older, summer afternoons meant reading to myself, usually with a cat curled up nearby. First Book is helping children in The Golden Triangle, and throughout the country, to have that precious experience. My wish is that all children will have this cherished memory. The cat is optional.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.