The Gift of Reading

Local council begins annual book event

Reading is a lifelong pursuit that begins at a young age. Father Marquette Catholic Academy fourth-grader Owen Maskart reads to Max Geschwindt. (Photo courtesy of Mary Davis)

MARQUETTE — The thing about books is that, as gifts, they provide extrinsic and intrinsic value.

The Marquette-Alger Reading Council, which promotes literacy and reading, announced the beginning of the annual Gift of Reading project in which the public is asked to donate new books that will be given to families and adults at Christmastime and throughout the year.

Mary Davis, Gift of Reading publicity chairwoman, said Gift of Reading began in 1987 at the now-closed Silver Creek School in Harvey when a group of teachers got together after learning about a similar program in the Detroit area.

“Back then it was primarily for the young children and school-age children,” Davis said. “Since then, we’ve expanded to include all ages, but the thought was having a new book of your own was very important.”

Chairing this year’s effort are Margi Licht-Mallo and Sheila Leahy.

“Everywhere we bring books, we are thanked so much,” Leahy said in an email. “It is a wonderful thing we do for them. The joy these books bring is heartwarming.”

Davis mentioned a quote by the Sherlock Holmes author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, that sums up the Gift of Reading purpose: “It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.”

New books are distributed to youth service agencies, public health and dental centers, nursing homes, including the Jacobetti Home for Veterans, Harbor House, Beacon House, the Women’s Center and many other locations.

New books may be dropped off at the Peter White Public Library and Snowbound Books in Marquette as well as schools and school libraries in the two-county area.

Books that are collected in an area stay in that area.

“Books that are collected in Ishpeming would stay in the Ishpeming area,” Davis said. “Sometimes we have an abundance of books in the Marquette area, and then we are trying to reach outlying schools in both Marquette and Alger counties.”

She said the St. Vincent de Paul Society has been a partner in the program, setting up a night when parents can come in and get gifts and clothing for Christmas. It also sets up a display with donated books so parents can select ones off that display.

Schools can have creative ways of getting books to youngsters.

“A teacher, or a counselor, a social worker, might see that there’s a child (who) might not receive a book otherwise, and they’ve been known to slip a book into a backpack,” Davis said.

Over the years, more than 33,000 books have been distributed through Gift of Reading, she said.

Organizers never know how much the books will be appreciated.

Davis said a few years ago, the popular Harry Potter books were delivered to the Jacobetti Home for Veterans.

“We heard that one of the veterans was so delighted to have that story read aloud to him,” Davis said.

She passed along quotes from local youngsters in Laura Wayland’s fourth-grade class at Father Marquette Catholic Academy about the importance of books:

≤ Madelyn Schetter — “All kids should get a chance to read a new book.”

≤ Anthony Thill — “Books are a great joy to the world and they should be shared.”

≤ Rodney Modell — “It is always nice to give back to kids especially if they have never experienced receiving a new book.”

≤ Owen Maskart — “People need to be able to read because it’s a good thing in life. Some people want to have new books but are unable to get them and we want them to experience a new book.”

Although older books might have a lot of wear left in them, Davis suggested people donate new books since older books might have marks in them.

The last day for donations is Dec. 4. People also may contribute anytime by sending a check to MARC at P.O. Box 1084, Marquette, MI 49855. Call 906-226-7030 for more information.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.


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