Thursday, July 14, 2011
Wicker supports reading project
By SUE WATSON
Sen. Roger Wicker joined ICS Head Start, Rust College and officials with Reading Is Fundamental last week to celebrate children’s literacy.
RIF is the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization. It teamed up with ICS to promote summer reading to local Head Start children and to give a set of four books to each child to take home and enjoy with the family as well a bag of school supplies.
Officials with RIF, including Ron Fairchild, Sarah Cheatham and Jennifer Katz with the national office in Washington, D.C., touted the 44-year-old organization’s way of promoting literacy through government/private partnerships and volunteerism.
Fairchild, who said federal funding was cut for RIF this year, said his organization insured books get into the hands of those who need it most. RIF gave away 15 million books to about 4 million children by accepting donations of books from book sellers and by buying books in bulk, he said.
Sarah Cheatham said Rust College and Mississippi were chosen for this occasion because there is a strong need for literacy material in the state and also based on other factors such as the free lunch and reduced lunch rates in the state and area.
Jennifer Katz said RIF uses volunteers in local communities to distribute its books – the teachers, libraries, parents and other community volunteers who help to run the program. The national office has about 50 staffers, she said.
RIF lost about $24.8 million in federal funding this year, she said.
“We are working with Congress to explore federal funding options and are seeking to expand corporate partners,” she said.
ICS was founded in 1967 to help assure that children get a “Head Start” on learning how to cope with the school environment by preparatory work before children entered public schools.
“We just love to do what’s right,” said Head Start director Eloise McClinton.
She and Rust College president David Beckley thanked Senator Wicker for his support of education.
“Reading is the basis for all our learning,” Beckley said in welcoming remarks. “If you can’t read, you can’t write, and if you can’t write, you can’t do math, and if you can’t do math you can’t get an education and be successful in school.
“We are all supporting the balancing of the budget, but not on the backs of our children. They are the future taxpayers in this country. Tomorrow’s leaders are our children today.”
Before taking turns with his wife, Gayle, in reading to pre-school children, Wicker explained that he has supported RIF personally and though his work as a U.S. Congressman.
He said Congress had changed the rules in how it does its budget and now calls support for organizations like RIF earmarks and pork barrel projects.
“We are willing to go with the rules and RIF will submit a competitive grant application,” he said.
He told children, “With books, you can go anywhere in the world, take your mind on a journey, go there in books.”
Gayle Wicker is an educator with the Ole Miss Tupelo campus.
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