Thanks to an anonymous donor, the Kings Center was able to offer a summer reading program for children for the first time.
The donor wished to remain unnamed because he said the donation of money isn’t the story — The story is the fact that a group of children spent the summer reading. And with literacy named as one of the larger problems for children in Oktibbeha County, the summer reading program touched a great group of children, he said.
The program, which started June 1, had 20 children ages 3 to 12 reading every single day, and participating in reading activities.
“They became more interested in books and talking about the stories,” said Angela Evins, Even Start Coordinator. “We wanted them to get excited about books and reading... The key was our sponsor. He made all of this happen.”
“Our goal was to have the kids personally read to every day,” Evins added. “ We also wanted to get the community involved in our efforts. As a part of Even Start, we focus on family literacy, and that is what this program did.”
The sponsor also allocated enough money to hire two high school students to serve as counselors during the summer reading program.
The sponsor explained that he felt it was important to give two high school students the opportunity to earn a little spending money over the summer, and also to give them something positive to do with their time out of school.
Starkville High School junior Mike Brand was one counselor who was picked for the job. He interviewed for the job because he knows the power that a positive role model can have in the life of a young child.
Brand is also a member of the high school 6A state champion boys basketball team, which may have made him more influential to the children because they learned that athletes need to care about academics as well.
“There are a lot of bad influences out there,” Brand said. “I wanted to be the example for these kids, and to show them that reading is fun and it’s important.”
Starkville High senior Kernisha Shelton snagged the second counselor spot, most likely due to her personal story regarding her childhood issues with reading.
“I had problems with reading when I was younger, but my mom helped me and worked with me to help me improve,” Shelton explained. “It’s just awesome to be able to help them see how important reading is. I think everyone should have that.”
Shelton also recalled a touching story of one child that when he first attended the summer reading program, he had no interest in paying attention to the stories or participating in the group reading time.
“When he first came, all he wanted to do was play,” Shelton recalls. “But then after a few weeks, even during play time, he would bring me a book and ask me to read it to him.”
The Kings Center summer reading program culminated in mid-July with a Clifford The Dog-themed celebration.
The children made bone-shaped sugar cookies, and enjoyed Clifford The Dog story time.
Each child was also given a goody bag with of toys and books. And most importantly, each child left with a newly-instilled love of reading.
For more information on Even Start, contact Coordinator Angela Evins at 662-324-6913.