Being part of youth reading program rewarding

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I was filled with joy by the occasion.

Some of the joy arose from giving.

Some from anticipation.

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Some from remembering.

Some from sources undetermined.

As a child, I loved to read.

I still love to read these many years later.

Without reading, I may well be down and out at best or in jail or dead at worst.

That’s how powerful reading has been for me – life saving, life sustaining.

The occasion was the giving of books.

Kay Doherty and Sharing, Inc. had provided 450 books that reflected African Americans within their pages.

These books were given as follows to entities in the nine counties I represent: 17 elementary, middle and high schools; two churches; and two community centers.

Each school received 20 books with 15 going to each church and 15 to each community center.

Most schools receiving books were having academic difficulties.

Therefore, these books are needed more than ever.

After I said a few remarks, one representative from each of the schools, churches and community centers attending made remarks.

They spoke movingly of the need for more books in general and how much these books will help our children in particular.

I was touched by these heartfelt testimonies.

One woman, an assistant principal said, “I want to be frank.

When I first received the letter from Senator Sanders concerning the 20 books, I said, ‘Why can’t Senator Sanders just send the books?’

I didn’t want to come but now that I have seen the books and heard the testimonies, I know I needed to be here.”

Principal Wanda McCall of Clark Elementary School talked movingly of how helpful the books will be.

She even shared how she designed an activity to spur further reading with every student writing a story and designing the illustrations.

Each will present their work at a special program and the three best stories will receive prizes.

She hopes others will use her model or develop their own to spur learning.

Principal Jimmy Lambert of Monroeville Junior High School was not on the list of schools with low-test scores.

He mistakenly received a letter about the books.

He called and asked if his school could receive the books anyway.

He said, “We sure do need these books.

We would love to have them.”

He agreed to send his librarian.

However, he came himself.

I felt the joy in each word he said about the books.

Katy Doherty spoke movingly via speakerphone from Braintree, Massachusetts.

“I love these books.

It was not easy for me to give them up.

However, I read in Sketches in the Democrat Newspaper about the failed tax package and the plight of education in Alabama.

The spirit hit me.”

Kay Doherty is a special human being.

She is spiritual, compassionate, caring and determined.

Kay helped start Sharing, Inc. many years ago which holds annual walkathons on Good Friday.

The Walks started in Boston grew to encompass some 30 locations with 4,000 to 5,000 persons walking up to 20 miles each.

Sponsors pledge so much per mile in support of their favorite walker and Sharing.

On more than one occasion, I considered flying to Boston to participate in the Walkathon.

My arthritic knees, however, would not allow me to walk even a quarter mile.

I consoled myself with helping sponsor other walkers.

The Good Friday Walks proved to be wonderful vehicles to involve, educate and raise funds.

Over the years, sharing has raised and shared over $6 million, mostly in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

It continues at a clip of $300,000 per year.

And in the process, many become involved in the struggle for justice.

Kay is a friend and fellow struggler.

She shares generously with those in need.

This gift will continue giving to our children for a long time.

She understands and appreciates the challenges of achieving justice in the face of challenges based upon race, class, gender, privilege, etc.

Last year, Kay and a contingent of Sharing members came to Selma.

They shared with us in the same room the books that were presented to the schools, churches and community centers.

At the end of the conversation, Kay promised to continue providing books in the coming years.

In my mind, I see young people reading these books with great interest because they see themselves in the characters.

I see their telling other children about their experiences and thereby stimulating them to read these books.

I see some children staying in school, staying out of jail and avoiding death because they read books provided by Kay Doherty and Sharing, Inc.

I am glad to be a part of this giving and this receiving.