Twenty years in early childhood development would exhaust most people, but Ladonna Butler seems to have made for that very thing. Her eyes are always open to the needs of those around her. She has no fear of talking to anyone about just about anything. And that’s probably what makes her so perfect for the work she’s been doing.
After a few trips to a public laundry and noticing how bored the children were, the wheels started spinning. Parents were frustrated with their children and seemed to have no way to engage them in anything long enough to get through a few cycles of laundry.
So LaDonna approached the West Kentucky Chapter for Early Care and Education about starting a literacy program that provides children with books in high-traffic public spaces throughout McCracken County. The program not only provides entertainment for children in waiting rooms and laundry mats, but the children are also encouraged to take books home with them. This new program is called REACH – Reading Expands a Child’s Horizons.
While we often take owning a book for granted, numerous families in McCracken County do not have the funds to provide good reading material for their children. REACH has donated an average of 50 books each month to local families who would not otherwise have had access to something so valuable to their children’s future.
Children who are read to at home are most prepared to begin school and thereby tend to be more successful students. Children with strong reading skills tend to be better behaved in school, and their attendance tends to be higher than children who struggle at lower reading levels. “We see kids enter school who have never even laid eyes on a book before,” said LaDonna. “I don’t want to give children just one book; I want to see them grow a library!”
REACH is currently focusing on children’s literature, but LaDonna hopes to begin providing reading material for adults as well.
Other local agencies have been crucial to the success of REACH. Paducah Headstart and the West Kentucky Community and Technical College have donated both labor and materials to build the REACH drop boxes and bookshelves. The Paducah Housing Authority has provides a storage space for the books that are donated.
Paducah Bank wants to help and we want you to help us. The St. Mary School System brought 547 books to the Paducah Bank REACH box recently. Paducah Bank is now issuing a challenge to other Paducah/McCracken County schools. The school with the most donated books to REACH will win $500 in books for their school library and a visit from the ice cream truck! Schedule your donation with Susan Guess so your books can be counted. The winner will be determined on a per capita basis, taking into account each school’s student population. The deadline is March 29.
For more information, contact Susan Guess at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 575.5723.