The elevator door opens, and five children charge into the lobby of the Arundel Center, descending on boxes stuffed with hundreds of books.
The children, ages 8 to 12, rummage through the books, select titles and sit down on a bench in the lobby to read. They are engrossed in the books, reading them to each other and ignoring the adults standing around watching them.
"I like it," says Latanya Barnes, 8, who is reading a book that proclaims, "You're All Right." Others gather around Adrian Wallace, 8,who is reading a book with pictures of clocks, "What Time Is It?"
The children, all residents of the Annapolis Housing Authority's Newtowne 20 community, were the first recipients of more than 10,000 books collected in a "Rally for Reading" program. The books will be usedto establish libraries in public housing communities throughout the county.
Director Ruthanne Gary and Karen Henry of the county Community Services office and Jane Andrew of the Anne Arundel Literacy Council started the project. About 60 communities and organizations donated books.
They chose Newtowne 20 to kick off the program because the community has a successful summer reading program developed with staff members at Georgetown East Elementary School. The program will be a model for other communities.
If the scene in the Arundel Center lobby last week is any indication, the program has taught childrenthat reading is fun.
"I feel good about these kids," said Newtowne 20 recreational director Rondell Williams. "I'd take them anywhere."
Along with books, the Literacy Council also distributes literature encouraging parents to read aloud to their children.
"The people who read and do well are the ones who were read to as kids," Andrewsaid.
The reading program is targeted at infants, preschoolers and elementary school children. The council also plans to work with adults. Volunteers will sort the books for age groups and distribute them to other communities in March.
Anyone wishing to donate books may call the Office of Community Services at 222-1530.