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- Jim Davidson

Nationally-syndicated columnist Jim Davidson is giving 100% of the profits from the sale of his book "Learning, Earning & Giving Back" to improve literacy in our nation. His brainchild "A Bookcase for Every Child" is really a throwback to the old days when people had a tragic loss like a house or barn fire, or the loss of some other material possession, and their neighbors would show up, help them get back on their feet, and then go back home without any thought of being paid for what they did. It was simply neighbor-helping-neighbor, not only because it was the right thing to do, but also it was with the full awareness that the next time the loss may be their own.

This same spirit still lives in America because millions of our citizens volunteer to help others every day, without thought of any personal gain. In a very real sense, this captures the essence of what this unique literacy project is all about. Over the past several years we have become painfully aware that millions of our fellow citizens are illiterate and suffer painfully because of this fact. We also have millions of young children growing up in low-income families where education is not a priority. Most of these children are doomed to repeat the cycle, ending up on the streets, into drugs, gangs, prostitution or worse. That is, unless people -- like the volunteers in our community -- step in to help them.

If you see the wisdom of getting involved in a project like this -- along with countless members of your community -- we are willing to share what we have learned with no thought of getting anything back in return, save for a better, safer and more literate nation. In the previous sections of this website, we have outlined the five phases of our bookcase project and what it takes to make it successful. If you are interested, first of all we want you to know that this is not a project that we would control or dictate to you in any way, with the exception of using only volunteers and not using any tax or government grant money.

We believe millions of Americans will relate to this concept, because the norm in recent times has been to get a government grant to fund projects like ours. Yet, when we think about the countless acts of fraud, graft and corruption in cases like Hurricane Katrina, where many people took thousands of dollars they did not have coming to them, it serves to remind us far too many people lack character and personal responsibility and accountability. We must work to re-instill character and ethical values in our people -- especially young people -- if our nation is to survive.

It's important to understand that this will be your project, your name, your own committee, your own volunteers and you would decide which low income children in your community would be getting the bookcases, books and reading sessions. In short, you are free to download and use this information without cost or obligation, other than respecting the guiding principles that this "Bookcase for Every Child" was founded on.

Using this information as prologue, we would like to share with you how we raised the finances for this project. Jim Davidson will always be grateful to Mrs. Carolyn Wilson, Executive Director of the Mississippi Press Association, who first made the suggestion that he publish a book of his best columns, sell it exclusively through newspapers and give the profits to literacy projects. He took her suggestion and with the help of his good friend C. Dennis Schick, her counterpart in Arkansas, came up with the title "Learning, Earning & Giving Back."

It was later decided the selling price would be $15.95 with $9 of this amount going to fund the wood for bookcases, the Newspapers in Education programs in our schools and for journalism internships through State Press Foundations. This was Jim's way of giving back. The balance of $6.95 would pay for the cost of printing, shipping, marketing his book and other related costs. The small amount left would be used to spread the project to other communities.

As a result of this commitment, all funds would be handled by the local newspaper, who would order and keep books on hand and reimburse the bookcase project for all expenses related to building the bookcases. Another provision is that any company, organization or individual could donate money to the project to be used exclusively to purchase construction materials for the bookcases. All checks would be made payable to the local newspaper.

Here is how we handled this in our community. Jim Davidson served as the finance chairman and raised all the money for the first two cycles of bookcases. About half came from donations from banks, organizations and individuals. The other half came from the sale of his book. He also used his credit card to purchase wood and other building materials, name plates, books for readers and other minor expenses and submitted the paid tickets to the newspaper for reimbursement.

The great thing about this project is that it does not take much money at all and every penny raised goes directly to help low-income children. This is why this project is so unique. We never turn down donations and are always grateful, but there are a number of reasons why purchasing books will pay far greater dividends, over the long run.

When the bookcases are built and placed in a child's home, for the most part they are gone from public view. However, books have a way of staying around on coffee tables, in bookshelves and passed from one person to another. Each book contains a little gold seal that talks about the literacy project and serves to remind everyone of where the profit from the sale of the book is going. It should be easy to understand the principle that it is better, in terms of "awareness," for 1000 people to buy one book each, than for 25 people to donate $100 each.

This is the guiding thought behind this concept, because until everyone becomes aware of our literacy problem, and we all decide to change it, we will have only limited success. The second and equally important reason for large numbers of people to buy one or more books, is that it creates a sense of "ownership" in the project. We are just naturally more enthusiastic about those projects we believe in and have a stake in.

Over time, we believe this book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back" will become a New Symbol for Literacy in America. It will take a long time and a lot of work for this to come to pass, but this is time we must use in the wisest way possible. We did not get to our present state of illiteracy overnight and we certainly won't solve the problem overnight either.

We have included as links, a full page newspaper article and an order form that informs the general public about the need and how purchasing a great book can fund this project on an on-going basis. The book will be great for the reader and the profits will help you build bookcases and help children. One of the outgoing, sales-oriented people on your committee, should be your finance chairperson to handle the details and maybe even select a Co-chairman to help. Set some goals for each year as to how many book sales you will need and then be creative. The books can be used as door prizes, premiums, gifts to employees, family, friends and also for, Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary, Graduation and other special occasions.

A special word of thanks to Robyn Green, Web Developer for the Log Cabin Democrat, who contributed his time and talents to the "Bookcase for Every Child" project. We are grateful for his help and his commitment to making a difference.

Newspapers may order books by going to:

www.jimdavidsoncolumn.com and clicking on the ordering books link.

News Release for your newspaper.

To speak with Jim Davidson or another member of the Conway Bookcase Project Committee: send an e-mail to:jimdavidson@conwaycorp.net or call 1-501-450-7743.