A crowd gathered Thursday night to raise money to build bookcases for preschoolers as a part of “A Bookcase For Every Child.”

As children played with blocks on the table, other members of the audience listened to the sounds of the Conway High School Jazz Band as it played a number of songs including “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “America the Beautiful,” “Bill Bailey,” and “Under the Boardwalk.”

The program provides an oak bookcase to 50 preschool students from CAPCA Head Start. The bookcase features the child’s name and a starter set of books.

State Sen. Stanley Russ presided over the event.

Russ said Jim Davidson, who is the founder of the organization asked him to be the emcee because “old politicians are like an old pair of shoes. The last thing that wears out is the tongue.”

Russ introduced Davidson as a syndicated columnist and motivational speaker who has “done so many things for somebody else’s good.”

Davidson thanked those who bought tickets and gave money to build “50 quality personalized bookcases for kids in the community.”
“We have now built 250 and will build 50 more,” Davidson said.

He said that 40 million Americans cannot read at the fifth-grade level, and that four out of 10 students will drop out of high school.

“We are blessed to have some of the finest schools in the state,” Davidson said. “To him who is given much, much is required.”

Davidson said he hopes to spread the bookcase project to every city in Arkansas. Part of the ticket proceeds from the Thursday event will be used as seed money to fund other projects across the state.

“One community at a time, we are putting an emphasis on literacy and education,” Davidson said.

He said the bookcase project is not something to be completed in five or 10 years. 

“It is a generational thing to building the bookcases and spread the project,” Davidson said.

He encouraged parents and grandparents to read to their children and grandchildren. He also suggested buying books for special occasions.