Santa Reads to Cecil Children

December 15, 1992

Santa Claus came early to Gilpin Manor Elementary this year. And 25 kindergartners in the Cecil County school have received a gift more valuable than they can now appreciate.

The Elkton Kiwanis Club recently purchased 13 new sets of early reader books for the local kindergarten. The sets include an oversized book for reading from an easel and a copy for each child to take home for parents to read to them.

The gift also came with a special bonus: the Kiwanis members are taking turns going into the classroom twice a month to read the new books to the children. "The intent of our 'Mr. Reader' program is to have kids see a role model other than their teacher read to them," explained John Marcheski, a Kiwanian who is also special education supervisor for Cecil County schools.

Kindergarten teacher Carol Burcham came up with the list of supplemental books that would suit her pupils' interests. The Kiwanis Club picked up the idea and the $1,000 tab, and lined up members for classroom reading. They wanted the children to have individual copies, not just a library copy, so that parents could participate at home.

Throughout the state, service clubs are involved in a host of projects that aid their communities. The numbers of members are dwindling and graying; the clubs are not the centers of community life that they were in eras past, especially in more urban areas. But they keep alive the spirit of giving back to the community, the human involvement that goes beyond simply writing a check.

The "Mr. Reader" project is a good example of combining human and financial gifts. The program wouldn't have happened without the initiative of the Kiwanis Club, which hopes to expand the project to another school next year.

We recognize the quiet controversy over whether PTAs and other outside groups should buy school supplies, particularly basic instruction material, instead of pressing the school boards and county governments to use public funds. It's a philosophical question that also relates to equity of distributing school board funds, and it will receive more attention as school budgets further tighten.

But the service club effort to enhance community education is to be commended. Outside reader programs in schools often focus on politicians and celebrities in one-time performances. The on-going presence of Elkton neighbors reading to Gilpin Manor pupils sends a welcome message that reading is important for everyone.

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