During the latter part of the most recent final exams week, Jacob Dean, a freshman student in the Liberal Arts & the Public Good Learning Community, headed out on a rainy and cold morning to distribute books to young children at the Lewis Adams Head Start in nearby Tuskegee. Lewis Adams is one of over 500 distribution sites for Jean Dean Reading is Fundamental, a non-profit organization that distributes over 75,000 quality, age-appropriate books to pre-school children, making it the largest RIF site in the nation.
The books are provided free of charge to children, and this distribution included Old Macdonald Had a Farm, Feast for 10, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, Jump Frog Jump, and Flower Garden, among others. But the books aren’t simply handed out to children. One by one, each child is allowed to CHOOSE a book that looks interesting. And to further illustrate that the book is the child’s own, Jacob writes the name of each child on a bookplate on the inside cover. Detailed records are kept to ensure that a child doesn’t choose the same book for the next distribution, and, most importantly, the books are chosen with care so that each child will likely receive a classic title, a book with exceptional artistic merit, and maybe one that focuses on animals, plants, or numbers.
“The experience I had distributing and reading books to children in Tuskegee’s Head Start Program taught me that just twenty minutes of my time and a free book can really brighten a young child’s day,” says Jacob. “The children were excited about receiving a book and having someone read to them. It is striking to hear that some children may not even have a book of their own at home and that the lack of books or someone to read may hinder a child’s literacy or success.”
Jean Dean RIF/Kiwanis volunteers around the state visit Head Start and other classrooms, and all enjoy the same experience sharing books with children. Teachers and administrators, who work hard each day to prepare young children for kindergarten, always appreciate the experience of a book distribution. Jacob’s new friends will see him again this semester when he returns with another big box of stories and a smile.