Bookcase Project aims to get needy children reading

By Shelby Devitt

A community project to promote literacy in the homes of low-income preschoolers will launch this winter.

John Rey, chairperson for the DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project, read about a program in Conway, Ark. called Bookcase for Every Child. Through this program, children in need receive personalized bookshelves with a small library of 10 to 12 books. Rey was influenced by the idea and decided to start a similar project in the DeKalb area.

Rey spoke with school district representatives and child care facilities to determine which school’s children would benefit the most from the Bookcase Project. He was directed to Two Rivers Head Start, 2425 Bethany Road in Sycamore.

Two Rivers Head Start offers free preschool and services for needy families in the area.

“Head Start serves children and families at or below federal poverty guidelines,” said Lisa Annen, Head Start executive director. “A lot of our families don’t have books for their children. We want to send those books home and get parents to read with their children and teach that love of reading and grow a crop of great readers.”

Annen said local Kiwanis clubs have been helping Head Start families meet their needs for years and is grateful for their continuing support with Bookcase Project.

“It’s going to be a challenge choosing the families, because we have over 100 families at this time,” Annen said. “We haven’t actually come up with a list yet. We’re still thinking about how we’re going to do that.”

Once the children have been selected, the bookcases will be constructed, affixed with nameplates of the recipients, and filled with a starter library of books donated by the community. The bookcases will be given to the children at an awards ceremony in May.

Greg Spears, client consultant at Ken Spears Construction, is leading the organization of bookcase construction by volunteer craftsmen.

“The project is intended to be an annual cycle,” Rey said. “Each year we will build 50 bookcases.”

Bookcase Project will be hosting a wine and food tasting event at Schnuck’s, 975 South Annie Glidden Rd., on Dec. 8 as a fund raiser. Participants can also donate new or gently used preschool-aged books at this time. Tickets can also be bought for a spaghetti dinner literacy banquet held at Huntley Middle School, 1515 S. Fourth St. on Feb. 16. Book donations can be made at local businesses and community locations beginning in February. For more information, call John Rey at 815-758-8577.