By CHERIL VERNON
Classic American author Mark Twain reportedly said “the man who does not read good books has no advantage over those who can’t read them.”
Mr. Twain can rest easy, though. Members of the Anderson County Altrusa International Club’s annual Make-A-Difference Day project proposes to allow area art students to paint a mural depicting scenes from their favorite literary classics — to be painted on the leftside wall of the main entrance of the Palestine Mall, which currently houses the Palestine Public Library.
“As a life-long lover of books, I think this is an outstanding idea,” Palestine City Councilman Will Brule said as council members approved the project during the Aug. 12 council meeting. “I applaud all our civic organizations for their interest in supporting our parks and our library. I stand behind them all the way.”
Palestine paraprofessional and local Altrusa member Diane Sloan last month approached the Palestine City Council with the idea to promote literacy with a mural at the Palestine Mall, but she said it was actually after a meeting of the minds during an outing with a couple of friends that the project began to take shape.
“I had been talking about coming up with a literacy project our local Altrusa Club could do,” Sloan said. “I was visiting the Texas Art Gallery with Ann Slattery and Elizabeth Cowart and Elizabeth had been talking about her vision of getting a Jack and the Beanstalk mural painted. Ann, who’s a retired librarian, suggested we collaborate to make it happen.
“It was kind of an a-ha moment.”
After fleshing out some details — including expanding the mural’s theme to incorporate 100 classic literature titles and involving local art students — Sloan said she starting approaching key supporters with the idea.
“The club was delighted when I brought it before them, the mall manager was delighted, the city was delighted — everyone has been extremely supportive,” she said.
Sloan said Slattery compiled the list of books which includes popular tales by Charles Dickens, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Sir Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Anna Sewell, Jules Verne and, yes, Twain, too. Sloan said efforts were made to choose books that would appeal to both girls and boys.
“Our project strongly encourages students to actually read these books,” Sloan said. “We certainly want to get them interested in the classics, but more importantly we want to inspire them to read.”
According to the website, literacytexas.org, 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate; 50 percent of the chronically unemployed are not functionally literate; and one in three adults cannot read this sentence.
“Reading is absolutely fundamental,” stated U.S. Department of Education Director Dr. Grover in a 2008 interview, as published at www.texasliteracy.org. “It’s almost trite to say that. But in our society, the inability to be fluent consigns children to failure in school and consigns adults to the lowest strata of job and life opportunities.”
To donate funds to help purchase material for the mural project to the Altrusa International Inc. of Anderson County, PO Box 1365, Palestine, Texas 75802. Make checks payable to Altrusa International Inc. of Anderson County.
According to the organization’s website, Altrusa “is an international non-profit organization that strives to make our local communities better through leadership, partnership and service. Altrusa historically has been, and still is, a community service organization with a focus on literacy and other local needs. Our organization was originally founded as a service organization comprised of women dedicated to leadership development and community service. Today, Altrusa International has an active membership that includes both men and women. Anyone interested in service and volunteerism may be invited to become an Altrusan.”
Visit www.altrusa.org to find out how to become a member.
Cristin Reece may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.