Many women educators residing in Morgan, Scott, and Cass Counties are members of the Alpha Phi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International. This honor society started work on their “Raise A Reader” program over 18 years ago. The Alpha Chi Chapter states that “the literacy project began with the research and development of a baby calendar which has been distributed ever since with baby’s first book to all babies born at Passavant Hospital.” The project stresses the importance of reading to children and also touches on the use of language to listen and speak with children as critical to academic success in the early elementary grades. It notes in the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards that “Preschool children’s language skills are some of the best predictors of reading success in the first and second grade.” “From birth to preschool is a critical time to intervene and make sure that the child’s environment includes lots of language,” agrees Alpha Phi President Debbie Bicknell.
Literacy Chair Kathy English notes that sometime around 10 years ago, they began donating books to the Morgan County Health Department. Then, 5 or 6 years back, Passavant took over the printing of the calendar, allowing their monies to be allocated for the purchase of more books. This past year has been the most successful fundraising year for the members of Alpha Phi Chapter; the committee met recently to unpack 3050 books that are being donated to area health departments for distribution. In addition to the books, the Raise A Reader project has furnished educational materials for the health departments, having translated them into French and Spanish to better meet the needs of our area demographics.
On Thursday, March 27th, English and fellow Literacy Committee member, Jo Ann Nelson, arrived at the Morgan County Health Department (MCHD) to hand over a portion of the books and materials to MCHD Administrator Dale Bainter, for distribution within. It was estimated that nearly 800 books were donated here in Jacksonville alone. There was a sense of joy and gratification as the first book was handed out to a little boy during the dropoff. English says, “We’re trying to reach that early age before school and everyday access to books. Everything is possible through the hard work of the Literacy Committee members who develop our ideas, write grants, solicit funds, and do the hard work to make this happen.” The Literacy Committee includes Debbie Bicknell, Janet Hayes, Dianna Hart, Jo Ann Nelson, Sally Nurss, Doris Robinson, Phyllis Rhodes, and Suzanne Verticchio.
The honor society’s President, Debbie Bicknell, said that, “As President, I am thrilled with this committee and everybody else. This is just so incredible to be able to do what we’ve done in one year.”
Members of the Alpha Phi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma International would like to thank each member of the group for their efforts. They appreciate greatly the funding for the Raise A Reader project that was achieved through a grant from the Lambda State Educational Foundation and the generosity of the following area donors: Arends Awe, Inc., Beardstown Lions Club, Bound to Stay Bound, Cass Cable TV, Inc., Cargill Beardstown, Cass County Retired Teachers, Church Women United, Wesley Chapel, Claribel Cully Memorial, The Farmers State Bank and Trust Company, First National Bank of Arenzville, First National Bank of Beardstown, First Presbyterian Church Mission Committee, Fox Fund Grace United Methodist Church, Illinois Prairie Community Foundation, Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative Community Fund, individual donations from Alpha Phi members, Jacksonville Area Chapter AARP, Jacksonville Savings Bank, L & H Insurance Agency of Bluffs, Lynch Family Dentistry, Margaret Wilson, M.D., Morgan/Scott Retired Teachers, Mrs. Alf Anderson, Mr. Don Chipman, Mrs. Raymond McDonald, Our Town Books, Passavant Area Hospital, Petefish Skiles & Co. Bank, Premier Bank, State Farm Agent Thomas Eoff, Tom & Jan Tiffin, Trinity Episcopal Church Fellowship, Triopia CUSD 27, Triopia Federation of Teachers, William W. Weller, D.D.S., Wesley Chapel Harmony Class, Wessler Brothers Insurance, and Westown Ford.