Here is a question that I would like to invite you to ponder with me for a little while today. Are you easily inspired? To be very honest, I am, especially if the comment, project or topic is of something I feel strongly about.

If you have read my column over the past several years, you know one of the topics I feel strongly about is literacy. All I have to think about, for even a few minutes, are the millions of kids in low-income American families who do not have books to read in their formative years. I know, beyond the shadow of doubt, the fate that awaits many of these children if someone does not step up to help them.

With these thoughts in mind, you will understand why I was inspired by recent comments made by Mike Kolasa, executive director for the Literacy Council of Alaska. His comments were made following the Fairbanks Bookcase for Every Child presentation ceremony. He said, "We had a great night last night with the Bookcase for Every Child project at Birch Park. I forgot about the magic that happens when kids get books." His next thought is what really inspired me, and is the purpose of this column. He goes on to say, "The whole night was superb. Some kids even showed up early to look at their bookcases and books. Every kid, brother, sister, cousin, regardless if they were ‘graduating’ from elementary school, took home some free books, too!"

Over the past 12 years, here in our community we have given 600 personalized bookcases and a starter set of books to children from low-income families who are enrolled in our local Head Start program. It just occurred to me, since we can’t give a bookcase to every child, we might be able to give one or more books to other needy children. There are literally thousands of good used books sitting in bookcases, collecting dust that would be of value and help many of these children.

We can have a community-wide "book drive" and ask the community to get involved by donating books for this purpose. Then when we have our annual Awards Ceremony next April, we can invite as many children as possible to attend and we will have books to give them. While I have not talked with him yet, I bet our Faulkner County library director would be willing to give each of these children their own library card, if they do not already have one. Our goal is to promote reading as a way of life for children, beginning as early as possible.

To promote the book drive, I will invite our local newspaper to do an article informing our community of our plans and ask them to get involved. Another fine member of our Conway Bookcase Project Committee is also director of the Gifted and Talented programs for our local public schools. She has already agreed to get her teachers and students involved in decorating boxes to place in locations around the city where books can be dropped off. We can have other committee members and volunteers collect the books, and invite members of the Faulkner County Retired Teachers Association to help sort and classify them.

We will need a good place to store the books until the ceremony, and I have some good ideas to meet this need. All in all, this is a win-win situation for children, parents and our community and we have some really great people here who have always been willing to step up and get involved.

(Editor’s Note: Bookcase for Every Child – Changing Lives & Futures – ONE AT A TIME. Please visit our website: www.bookcaseforeverychild.com)