26,000 coins to aid literacy projects

May 16, 1994|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Sun Staff Writer

If you use the drive-in window at the Maryland National Bank in Linthicum and see something a bit odd Wednesday morning, don't blink or rub your eyes.

It's just 50 4-year-olds with two small red wagons containing cookie jars filled with about 26,000 pennies, nickels and even quarters.

Each coin represents one book the preschoolers had read to them by their parents. The project began in September.

"I challenged the parents to read 10 minutes each day or each night to their children," said Brenda Collett Stephens, director and teacher of YWCA Preschool program, which meets at Linthicum Heights United Methodist Church on School Lane, one block from the Maryland National.

"The earlier you get children involved in reading, the better their foundation for education the rest of their lives," said Mrs. Stephens, who has raised three sons. She started the program in 1973, shortly after moving to Linthicum with her husband.

All 90 children in the program took the "Reading Challenge," which included books such as "The Very Busy Spider" and "Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me."

The penny collection started as a visual aid.

Children brought in a penny for each book on their weekly book list. As the collection grew, it was decided to use the money to buy books, story tapes, head sets and other materials for less fortunate children, and start a literacy program for children in other YWCA of Greater Baltimore programs.

Those programs include the Eleanor D. Corner House, a shelter for about 150 homeless women with families; the CRIBS Program, a shelter for 16 homeless, abused and abandoned children ranging from infants to 8-year-olds; and the Upton Center, a child-care center where mothers receive job training and advice on being a parent.

"I suppose we will have $750-worth of books for the kids -- and tapes," said Mrs. Stephens.

After Wednesday's trip to the bank, the children will return to school and present books and tapes to a YMCA representative.

Other organizations also contributed to the project. Maryland National Bank matched the amount of money in the jars. The Woman's Club of Linthicum Heights donated $50, and Scholastic Inc. in North Carolina contributed books worth about $200.

Leslie Poff, whose two daughters attend the preschool, said the reading program was a great idea. Her daughters, Caroline, 4, and Kirsten, 3, "loved to take their little reading list in and their pennies," she said.

The children have filled two 48-ounce cookie jars, known as Teddy Bear banks, to the brim. They also have half-filled another bank, called Milton the Monkey. The clear jars let the children see the relationship of their reading to the pennies they collected and the books they bought, said Mrs. Stephens.

This is the program's second year. On average, students read 32 books a week, said Mrs. Stephens. The children who were read to most often showed increased imaginations and attention spans. Counting the coins also helped the youngsters build math skills, she said.

Throughout the year the children were rewarded with stickers and free hamburgers from the McDonald's in Linthicum. They also will receive certificates.

"I'm just amazed at how well the program has been received," said Nancy Harrison, an assistant.

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