Operation Read pep rally

Operation Read's pep rally at the Palestine Mall last year kicked off a full day of distributing books to primary and elementary students all over Palestine.

With an all-day pancake dinner fundraiser at the Palestine Senior Citizen’s Center on Saturday, Sept. 21, community-wide efforts to improve literacy are picking up.

Operation Read raised $22,000 to purchase four new books each for 1,800 students last year. This year's drive will up the ante, seeking to raise $30,000 to supply four new books to the same number of students, while also making new books available to kids year-round. 

The additional money raised this year will help purchase books for the summer reading programs and new book boxes. 

Last year’s program inspired new efforts to encourage literacy. Davi Killion, a member of the Palestine school board, started an outdoor library at her family’s business, and joined Operation Read’s board to encourage other businesses to add outdoor libraries or book boxes inside their offices.

Second, the Westwood and Palestine school districts and the Palestine YMCA started their own summer reading programs. Westwood schools encouraged kids and parents to attend family reading nights. Palestine schools provided bus transportation to summer reading centers in their neighborhoods. 

About 60 kids per week participated in Palestine’s program, where they used iPads pre-loaded with e-book selections to read at their own pace.

At least a dozen organizations, including businesses and churches, have requested new book boxes—weather-proofed with a steel covering—so kids can get free books in their neighborhoods.

Students at Palestine High School’s welding shop will build the boxes, which will include an Operation Read logo design. Twelve organizations, including area businesses and churches, have agreed to sponsor the outdoor book boxes. Each organization will pay $60 for each box and has the option of adding its own designs. 

Many of the same businesses and groups that sponsored in 2018 are continuing this year at different levels: Bronze, $150 to $349; Silver, $350 to $749; Gold, $750 to $999; and Platinum, $1,000 and up.

Founding sponsors include the Westwood and Palestine Independent School Districts, Christian Heritage Academy, University Academy, Citizens on Patrol, Kiwanis of Palestine, Concerned Citizens Action Group of Palestine, UNIDOS en Palestine, Palestine Negro Business & Professional Women's Club, and Altrusa Club of Anderson County.

Among this year's new sponsors: Palestine Lion’s Club, Chili’s, Palestine Toyota, All-Star Ford, Palestine Regional Medical Center, Vera Bank, and Commercial Bank of Texas. Chili’s is contributing 15% of profits earned each third Wednesday of the month to Operation Read. Mayor Steve Presley said all organizations are welcome to join Operation Read.

Area businesses are also donating food and supplies—to minimize costs of the pancake dinner. Board member Diane Davis is coordinating volunteers, and said she needs about 50 more to help the day of the dinner. Volunteers are needed to help with parking, serve dinner, coffee, and juice, and show people where to go. Volunteers will serve in two-hour shifts that begin at 6:30 a.m. 

Jeff Atkinson, a founding board member, plans to continue Operation Read for seven more years, giving the program time to make a real difference in the community.

Operation Read’s board members are committed to improving reading skills among kids and their families; Presley said the long-term goal is to increase the amount of time families spend reading together. 

“The long-term goal is more family interaction,” Presley said.

For more information, call Jeff Atkinson at 903-724-5358. 

To volunteer at the pancake dinner, call Diane Davis at 903-922-9738.

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