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UNCP student-volunteers give out ‘First Books’ to youngsters

February 22, 2006

Like a modern day Johnny Appleseed, UNC Pembroke’s First Book program hopes to plant a seed in the region’s literacy landscape by giving out free books to children.

About 50 elementary and middle school-age children received books February 6 at UNC Pembroke during the kick-off of First Book-UNCP. The children came from after-school programs at the Boys and Girls Club and UNCP’s Family Life Center, where UNCP student Sabrina Corona is a program assistant.

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UNCP student Christelle Lebeau read from a Spanish-English book.

“Many of our children don’t have an interest in books, but this may change it,” Corona said.

Student volunteers, like Joel Lucas, entertained the youngsters with skits, karaoke, a step-show, pizza and literacy games. Lucas, who volunteered with his freshman composition class, quizzed kids on popular book titles.

“They catch on quickly, and they really seemed to enjoy it,” Lucas said during a break. “I teach a primary class at my church, so I have some practice with this age group.”

Eleven-year-olds Alexis Jones and Taley Strickland, who came with the Family Life Center, performed a karaoke number with help from several UNCP students.

“ This was exciting. We had a great time,” Strickland said.

“I liked the students,” Jones said. “I think I’m going to go to UNCP.”

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Alexis Jones (below) plays a literacy game as Family Life Center’s Sabrina Corona looks on. Corona is also a UNCP student.

About 30 UNCP student-volunteers represented LSOP (Leadership and Service Opportunity Program), Lambda Theta Alpha sorority and Prof. Deana Johnson’s composition class.

“I have 19 students here,” Johnson said. “This is a service learning opportunity. It’s appropriate because First Book is about reading and literature, and they will write a paper on the project.”

Student coordinators for First Book were Janetta Dunn, Brittany Taylor and Joey Kirk. Advisor for the project was Mary McEntee, a Vista volunteer in UNCP’s Office of Student Activities.

“This is a student-run program, and the students did a really great job,” McEntee said. “This is a great program. Literacy is the key to fighting poverty and getting books into the hands of young children is critical.”

The kick-off for First Book-UNCP was aided by a $500 grant from Verizon’s Youth Service America, and First Book is aided by NFL Charities.

First Book-UNCP is inviting after-school reading programs in the area to apply, and each child will receive a new book every month for a year, McEntee said. Going forward, UNCP’s new program will begin raising funds

First Book, which has distributed more than 33 million books around the globe, is a national non-profit organization with local affiliates like UNCP.

To make a contribution to First Book-UNCP or learn more about the program, please call the Office of Stu