Celebrating through reading

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Even though The Albany Herald's 120th anniversary is not until Oct. 24, the birthday celebrations are already in full swing.

There are a number of ways Herald employees are marking the occasion, one of which is reading books to the children of Jackson Heights Elementary School.

Every Monday and Tuesday, the publication's personnel are going into the school to read to the grade level of their choice for 20-30 minutes at a time -- enough time to read two or three books per session.

To date, more than 30 books have been read. The goal is to reach 120 books by the time The Herald's birthday approaches.

"I think it's wonderful," said Vickie Dorminey, the media specialist at Jackson Heights. "The students are so excited.

"I think it's important to get the community involved (in promoting literacy). All the comments we have been getting back are positive.

The students enjoy it, and the adults that come to read enjoy it."

It is relevant to consider how a daily newspaper can impact the promotion of literacy, school officials point out.

"It is helpful to see community leaders reading to them (the students)," Dorminey said. "If the book is on their level, they may want to re-read it.

"When you see positive role models reading, it encourages them to read and it gets them excited about reading."

Jan Collins, a first-grade teacher at Jackson Heights, was also encouraged by the positive influence the program seems to be having on the school's students -- particularly on the 19 children in her classroom.

"It brings in an outsider from the community," she said. "They (the students) know a newspaper is something put together for them to read.

"I know I'm grateful for them (Herald employees) giving of their time so graciously. Who knows -- we may have an inspiring editor, photographer or reporter in our midst?"

Among the employees who have been reading to the students is Casey Dixon, the publication's deputy news editor, who recently read to a group of second-graders.

"I wasn't sure what to expect when I walked in the doors of Jackson Heights, but I was greeted with warmth and smiles," Dixon said.

"Spending time in (the classroom) was a joy. The children were attentive and participated well. I think I had as much fun as the students did.

"This is a great opportunity for us to get involved with the community and give something to these children. I can't wait to go back."

The program coincides with the Read Across America celebration, which is conducted in March in acknowledgment of the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel -- better known as "Dr. Seuss."

Even though the author's birthday is actually on Wednesday, the Dougherty County School System will celebrate Read Across America on Friday. During this day, anybody can come in to read to the county's elementary school children from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

"It's a day of reading throughout the school," Dorminey said. "We try to include people from throughout the community.

"It's a celebration of reading. We want students to know how important reading is."

A handful of The Herald's employees are expected to participate, as well as students from Darton College and Albany State University.

One of The Herald's employees planning to participate in Read Across America will be William Lemon, who works in the newspaper's circulation department. Since the reading program kicked off several weeks ago, Lemon has had the opportunity to read to a group of third-graders.

"When it came my time, I went," he said. "I was reluctant at first, but I enjoyed it. I'm going every other Tuesday until we read 120 books."

On his first trip to the school, Lemon read "Abe Lincoln" and "The Jackie Robinson Story." He even conducted a reading comprehension exercise while he was there.

"I took some candy and gave it to the teacher," he recalled. "(To get the candy) the children had to answer a question."

He even asked the students to name eight states that start with the letter "M." One student in the class was able to name seven.

"To me, reading does enhance knowledge," Lemon said. "The kids would be instrumental if they read. I didn't think the kids would pay attention. But to my amazement, they did."

In addition to the reading program, The Herald has also been utilizing a 120th anniversary logo that will be used throughout the year in print and online.

The Herald has also committed to sponsor a "Business After Hours" event in October, and has already unveiled a heritage series, which has given the newspaper's staff an opportunity to go back and offer a glimpse into Albany's history.

The Herald has also kicked off its series on former carriers and recently improved its printing process, allowing newsroom and advertising employees to send pages directly to the plate, thereby skipping a process that previously involved chemicals and photographic film.

The Albany Herald also has plans to set up a booth at the downtown spring festival set for Saturday.