My Book advisory board members pictured at a recent board meeting held at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library are, seated, President Gail Boland, left, and Martha Jo Mims. Standing, from left, are Ellie Graham, Qua Austin and Jo Shumake. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
October 17, 2015 11:08:52 PM
One of Lowndes County's ardent proponents of early childhood literacy has a new name: First Book in Columbus is now My Book. The nonprofit chartered in 2005 provides brand new books to children so they can develop their own personal libraries.
The name change accompanies a renewed commitment to keep the focus local. The national First Book program, which the local group has been affiliated with, has grown rapidly and has expanded its outreach globally, said My Book advisory board president Gail Boland. By becoming My Book, the Columbus-based organization will concentrate every dollar here in the immediate community. With My Book grants, schools will still be able to order high quality books and educational materials at deeply-reduced prices from the First Book marketplace.
Advisory board members are passionate about fostering an interest in reading at early ages. They volunteer as ambassadors to area schools and daycare centers, awarding grants, distributing books and reading with children.
"The impact is huge," said Robin Ballard, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the Lowndes County School District. "Getting books in a child's hands and doing it on such a large scale as this has a ripple effect that just gets wider. The reputation that those women bring with them speaks volumes for the program."
In the classroom
Teachers at elementary schools have integrated the book program with their curriculum. At Fairview Elementary Aerospace and Science Magnet School, for example, books with science content have been used in classroom instruction.
"We also needed to infuse more mathematics in the classroom, so we purchased books on addition and subtraction for our first graders and books on fractions for our third graders," said Mildred Ford, the curriculum coordinator at Fairview. Every child in the grade gets a book, and at the lessons' end, each gets to take their book home to keep.
My Book volunteers also talk to children about how to take care of books and how to share them with brothers and sisters at home.
While improving early childhood literacy skills is My Book's primary focus, the WILL program at Columbus Middle School reaches out to older girls.
WILL stands for Women Influencing Lives through Literature. The initiative begun by Emma Thompson, then a student at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, is supported by My Book.
"The grant for books gives 15 participating Columbus Middle School girls the privilege of receiving books throughout the year," said CMS librarian Stephanie Montgomery. "Students from MSMS come in and discuss the books. We like to select books that have strong women in them."
The program encourages an enjoyment for reading and a love of literature, Montgomery added.
The value of reading can change lives, Boland stressed. Advisory board member Qua Austin agreed.
"Reading makes strong schools, and strong schools mean further economic growth," she said. "We want to grow our community. We want to keep our schools strong."
How to help
Donations to My Book are tax deductible. Contributions may be mailed to My Book/Create Foundation, P.O. Box 1265, Columbus, MS 39703. For more information about the organization, volunteer opportunities or having a representative of My Book speak to your group, contact Boland at 662-889-8771.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.