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Give the gift of reading this holiday season

With the holidays rapidly approaching, most of us have begun the process of brainstorming for potential gift ideas. Naturally, we feel there are few gifts greater than that of the written word, and we aren’t alone in that feeling. 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 to 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 told the Journal. “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.

“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.

During this season of giving, please consider a donation to this wonderful project.

The last day for donations to the Gift of Reading 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.