Each year, 50 children receive a new bookcase personalized with their names and 10-12 books through the organization "A Bookshelf for Every Child."
The organization was founded by columnist Jim Davidson of Conway in 2005 and has a committee of 14 people who Davidson said have a specific expertise in teaching children to read.
The organization’s yearly fund raising event is slated for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Bob Courtway Middle School.
The children who receive a bookcase bearing their name come from low-income families and are a part of the HeadStart program, Davidson said. Each bookcase bears what Davidson calls a "starter set" of 10 to 12 books.
The program prepares the student and encourages parents to buy more books for their children. Davidson said a volunteer comes by to read to the children as well.
"Sixty-one percent of low income families have no books in their home," Davidson said of the national statistic. Nationally, 44 million people cannot read beyond level one, 32 million cannot read a sentence and four in 10 students drop out of school.
In Conway, Davidson said 60 percent of the HeadStart students come from single parent homes.
Because many do not have books, he said when they go to school, "their vocabulary is limited. When they get to school and get in classes with children from education-minded homes, they are light years behind," he said.
Davidson said by the time the students are in third and fourth grade, "they start to slide and start to get behind because of their lack of reading skills."
To fund the organization, "A Bookshelf for Every Child" hosts a dinner in October. This year’s dinner will feature the Conway High School Jazz Band. Former Sen. Stanley Russ will emcee the event.
Tickets are $15.95. Of that money, $12 stays with the local chapter and $3.95 is used to help start "A Bookshelf for Every Child." Those attending the event will also receive a copy of Davidson’s book, "Learning, Earning and Giving Back."
So far, new chapters are starting in Mayflower and Wynne from seed money provided by the Conway event. Davidson said when these chapters have a banquet, they will provide seed money for other new chapters.
"We can spread bookcases all over Arkansas and all over America," Davidson said.
Conway will act as the hub of the organization. The organization is strictly a volunteer one and does not accept tax money, Davidson said.