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Oh, the places you'll go once you're able to read

Goodwill's BookWorks program is collecting donated books through April for kids in Head Start.

By BETH N. GRAY
Published March 22, 2007


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BROOKSVILLE

Ronette Snyder steps briskly down the hall at Brooksville Head Start, toting a suitcase of books in one hand and carrying a poster-size book under the other arm.

As Snyder walks through the classroom door for 5-year-olds, one of the children, Lester, jumps from his seat on the carpet and claps his hands.

"It's the Reading Lady," he says.

Snyder, 65, is one of 18 readers in Hernando County who volunteers at Head Start and other preschools as part of Goodwill Industries' BookWorks program.

BookWorks is in its annual drive through April for book donations "to instill a love of books and reading in children from low-income households to prepare them to succeed in tomorrow's workforce," says Chris Ward, media relations specialist for Goodwill.

Snyder takes her chair in front of the little listeners. She doesn't even need to look at the words. The book, The Napping House, by Audrey Wood and illustrated engagingly by Don Wood, is opened for their view.

On a rainy day seen through a window, a granny snores. Snyder makes a snoring sound. "Everyone is sleeeeping," Snyder whispers of the child, dog, cat, mouse and flea.

Five-year-old Brach, rapt, leans forward, nary a blink as if she might miss something.

Back to the reading: The flea bites the mouse, which sets off an awakening of all, one individual by another. Snyder, theatrically, contributes arm waving of jumping, bumping, laughing.

"What do you see out the window?" Snyder asks. "Spring," Janet, another Head Start student, says of the now sun-drenched scene.

Snyder said her work with the program "makes my heart sing. It is so much fun." The beauty of BookWorks, she added, is not only the reading, but that Goodwill gives book to the kids."

Indeed, Goodwill collected 22,000 books at its outlets last year in five counties and distributed them, with bookplates inscribed with each child's name.

BookWorks was launched several years ago, Ward said, when a welfare client admitted that an obstacle to her employment was an inability to read.

"BookWorks speaks to that, so they can grow up and get better jobs," Ward said.

The program is in its third year in Hernando County and has been well received, said Ward.

"Our goal is to receive quality books, new or 'gently used' or 'previously loved,' " she said. Dog-eared or crayon-marked books are consigned to Goodwill sales stock, so every child receives a like-new book.

At Brooksville Head Start, Jacob was called first to receive a book. He rubbed his hand over the glossy cover, grinning, then sat to turn the pages.

Although the preschoolers are not yet readers, the books are big on pictures, and teacher Jane Watson reads many of them in class. Snyder encourages the youngsters: "Share them with your family, your favorite cat or dog or toy."

Snyder, a volunteer in many fields, reads joy in the faces of the BookWorks recipients. "You just have to see it," she said.

Ward, of Goodwill, points out that studies show that "where parents read to children, they become better readers and do better in school. This is the time to instill the love of reading.

"This is what we're hoping: that kids will take the books home, and this will be the start of their own library, and parents will read to them. If there is a choice of buying milk or a book, the budget just might not allow (a book)."

Books aren't cheap, she admits. New books for preschoolers run from $3 to $5. Snyder recommends Harcourt Brace Big Books, Dr. Seuss, Walt Disney stories, Winnie the Pooh series, Scholastic Books/My First Library and Young Families Reader Digest.

The Head Start youngsters agree. As they clutched their donations, the third or fourth of the year, they said in chorus: "Thank you."

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

Fast Facts:

HWant to help

To donate books to the Goodwill BookWorks program, people may drop off books in special boxes at outlets at 1260 Broad St., Brooksville, or 5260 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. Attach a note designating them for BookWorks. To volunteer as a reader - once a month, twice a month or weekly - call toll-free 1-888-279-1988, ext. 1013.

[Last modified March 21, 2007, 20:09:09]


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