For some Farmington-area school children, the idea of owning a book would be just a dream, if not for a small but dedicated group of volunteers.
West Oaks Civitan's "Six Books One Summer" reading program puts books into the hands of elementary students at the beginning and end of the summer. Volunteer Rose Christoph explained Civitan's goal "is to have the children develop a love of reading."
Many West Oaks Civitan members are retired reading specialists or school administrators, she said, but the organization also encourages younger volunteers to get involved. Karen Obsniuk, Dean of the College of Education at Madonna University, brought members of the school's Society of Future Teachers to an April 18 Literacy Tea, held at Beechview Elementary, which is the group's major fundraiser each year.
Keynote speaker at the event was Howell author Denise Brennan-Nelson, who has published 11 children's books. Brennan-Nelson said she wrote most of her life only for herself.
"I tell kids everybody should have a place to write about what's important to you," she said. "Get some paper, get a pencil and write. It doesn't have to be some grandiose journal. My favorite journal is my gratitude journal, and I only write what I'm grateful for."
One of her most popular books, Buzzy the Bumblebee, came about because Brennan-Nelson read about research that showed, based on the principles of aerodynamics, bumblebees can't fly.
"I thought, 'It's a good thing bumblebees don't know that'," she said.
The resulting book is about a bumblebee that stops flying, because he is told that he can't. Brennan-Nelson asked, "What would we do if fear and doubt didn't get in our way?"
Club president Peg Kulas presented awards to members Dr. Hakim Shahid, assistant professor and director of the off-campus education master's program at Madonna University, Ellen Wiland-Harkenrider, 5th grade teacher at Warner Upper Elementary School, and Sue Kalisky, media specialist at Kenbrook Elementary, for their work in promoting literacy.
West Oaks Civitan's "Six Books One Summer" program currently serves four Farmington schools. The organization also supports story-time for students, literacy links for parents, storybook character visits, Farmington Public Library reading day, book donations to schools and other programs that focus on improving literacy in Farmington and Farmington Hills.