The Conway High School Jazz Band, under the direction of Todd Johnson, will play Big Band music at the Second Annual Bookcase Literacy Banquet. 

This event is sponsored by the Conway Bookcase Project Committee and the purpose is to raise funds to construct the next 50 bookcases to be given to 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children in the local Head Start program and the Conway Housing Authority. 

This annual fundraising event will be held Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bob Courtway Middle School Cafeteria in Conway. 

This is an all volunteer project and uses no tax money or grants of any kind. The focus is to encourage parents and grandparents to read to their children in the home. The theme for the project is "Building a New Generation of Readers." 

Since beginning in 2005, 250 personalized, oak bookcases, along with a starter set of books, have been presented to children in low-income families. Also, volunteers read to the children each week at the Head Start centers. 

Recent statistics indicate that 61 percent of low-income families have no books in the home for their children to read, and this places them at a severe disadvantage when they enter school. The resulting lack of vocabulary and communication skills is a major reason for the high drop-out rate in our nation’s schools. 

What makes this grassroots project so unique is the way it’s funded. This annual banquet highlights literacy and provides a venue for the whole community to come together. For $15.95, each person who attends receives a delicious meal which includes spaghetti, kraut, Petit Jean Sausages off the grill like those served at Toad Suck Daze, corn, slaw, pickle spears, homemade desserts, coffee, tea and water. The meal will be served by students from Conway Christian High School under the supervision of Becky Jorgensen, director of student activities.  

Each person who attends also receives some great local entertainment and a complimentary copy of the book "Learning, Earning & Giving Back." All the proceeds are then put back into the project to buy wood and supplies to build the bookcases and to provide start-up or "seed" money for a bookcase project in another community. 

In view of the national problem of illiteracy, having "ownership" in this copyrighted project is something we can all feel good about because it means this project can and will be spread all across the nation without costing the taxpayers a nickel. 

At this point it is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 Conway residents have been involved in some phase of the project. 

In March, the Arkansas General Assembly passed a joint resolution, co-sponsored by Rep. Linda Tyler and Sen. Gilbert Baker commending the Conway Bookcase Project Committee for its work and encouraging every community in the state to begin a bookcase project. 

Tickets may be purchased for $15.95 each from the following Conway Bookcase Project Committee members: Stanley Russ, Ruth Voss, Phyliss Fry, Mickey Cox, Mary Boyd, Nancy Mitchell, Jerry Glover, Ken Ingram, Amanda Moore, Randall Aragon, Larry Pillow, Linda Linn and Linda Hammontree, or call Chairman Jim Davidson at 450-7743. 

Tables of eight may be purchased and reserved, with your name, for $127.60. Attendees are also encouraged to bring "gently used" children’s books to the banquet for stocking the 50 shelves. 

For more information on the Conway Bookcase Project, visit their Web site at