The second annual Bookcase Literacy Banquet will be held at 6:30 Thursday night at the Bob Courtway Middle School Cafeteria. 

The purpose of the banquet is to raise funds to construct the next 50 personalized, oak bookcases for children in low-income families. 

This is an all volunteer project that uses no tax money or grants of any kind and is led by a 14 member community-wide committee whose aim is to encourage parents and grandparents to read to their children and grandchildren in the home, and, on special occasions, to purchase them a book.  

The project started in 2005 and has already built and presented 250 bookcases and the children are also given a "starter set" of books. Volunteers read to these 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children each week at local Head Start Centers. 

The theme of the project is "Building a New Generation of Readers" as there are 44 million adults in America today who cannot read at level one, the fifth grade. Thirty-two million of these cannot read a simple sentence. 

Just think of the difference that learning to read as a child could have made in their lives. According to a press release, "If a person can’t read, in today’s society, they can’t succeed and all too often they wind up hooked on drugs, involved in crime and later in prison. It costs $30,000 a year to house and inmate in the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

"Conway, and Faulkner County have a good system of schools and colleges, and a small portion of each ticket price is set aside to provide "seed" money to help other communities start bookcase projects. In time, this simple plan will enable the group to spread the project all across the nation and without costing taxpayers a single penny,"  the press release said.

The price of each ticket is $15.95 and includes a meal of spaghetti, grilled Petit Jean Sausage, kraut, slaw, corn, pickle spears, drinks and home-made desserts that will be served by students from the Conway Christian High School. The Conway High "Jazz" band will perform big-band music and each person who attends will receive a complimentary copy of Jim Davidson’s book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back" as a memento of the occasion, and also as a reminder of what the project is doing to combat illiteracy. 

A limited number of tickets are still available and may be purchased at the door. Those planning to attend are encouraged to bring "gently used" children’s books that will be presented, along with a bookcase, to our children next spring at the Conway Bookcase Project’s sixth annual awards ceremony.