Children who grow up without learning to read are at a great disadvantage when it comes to their success later in life, Conway Bookcase Project Founder Jim Davidson said.

"Unfortunately, this is the case for several million of our nation’s children," he said.

According to a study in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read. A part of the reason for this statistic is that 61 percent of low-income families have no books in the home for their preschool children at a crucial time when reading development takes place.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. Another source,, said more than 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level.

"The inability to read is silently eating away at America, ruining lives, costing billions of dollars, and pulling down the ability of the United States to compete with the rest of the world," the DOJ said.

To address this need, the Conway Bookcase Project for the past 13 years has provided quality, personalized oak bookcases, and a starter set to books to Head Start children being reared in low-income families, Davidson said.

"This project is all volunteer, giving back, and uses no tax money or grants of any kind," he said.

To raise funds to build the bookcases, the committee hosts an annual banquet.

This year’s banquet, which is the 10th annual, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bob & Betty Courtway Middle School cafeteria.

Shoji Tabuchi, well known entertainer from Branson, Missouri, will provide the entertainment.

Seating is limited and tickets, ($15.95 each or a table of 8 for $125.00) can be obtained at the Log Cabin Democrat, Faulkner County Library, Conway Copies, or by calling Jim Davidson – 499-2179 or Dr. Tammy Benson – 852-5151.

The menu will be catfish and all the trimmings, tea, coffee or water and homemade desserts.

Banquet guests are encouraged to bring new or "gently used" pre-K children’s books to be presented to these children at the Annual Awards Ceremony this coming April. Members of the Conway Bookcase Project Committee include Davidson-Chairman, Coach Cliff Garrison, Dr. Charlotte Green, Mickey Cox, Linda Linn, John McGraw, Don Powell, Caryn Southerland, Dr. Amanda Moore, Jennifer Welter, Nancy Mitchell, Dr. Tammy Benson, Kelly Sublett and Mark Lollar.

Since the project began in 2005, the Conway Bookcase Project Committee and its supporters have provided 650 bookcases and a starter set of Pre-K children’s books to local underprivileged children.

"Our local project has inspired projects in five other states that have built and presented a combined total of over 2,000 personalized bookcases," Davidson said. "Because of the dire literacy statistics,and the great need, community and committee leaders are making plans to expand the project nationwide in the coming months."