No. 1185



In April of 2016 we had a young man by the name of Jovoni Johnson come to our 12th annual Bookcase Awards Ceremony to tell us about a bookcase and some books he received when he was 4 years of age and enrolled in the local Head Start program. Jovoni told us that he would pass by the bookcase with his name on it, and soon decided he wanted to read some books. However, his mother told him that the only books he could put in his bookcase were those he had read. So he started to read, and he kept reading over the coming years. When he came to speak to us he was in the 10th grade and was already getting academic scholarship offers from colleges because of his excellent grades.
All of us associated with the Conway Bookcase Project were so proud of him, but had no idea what the future would hold for this young man. Not only was he an excellent student, but he was also the backup quarterback for the high school football team. Now, fast forward a couple of years to August of 2018. There was a wonderful article in our local paper about the upcoming football season and the prospects for the Conway Wampus Cats. The article said Jovoni Johnson -- with his 34 ACT score -- was the starting quarterback for the team’s first game against rival El Dorado. Well, the game is history and Conway won in double overtime. Jovoni threw two touchdown passes and then ran the ball in for the winning touchdown.
A few weeks later I had the opportunity to speak to about 250 employees of the United States Department of Agriculture at their annual training conference at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Little Rock. During my talk I told them about Jovoni and his success, because reading and academics were important to him.
It was also my privilege to give them a little of my personal background, as I could really relate to these people who served famers across our state. I was reared in cotton country and my folks owned and operated a small-town restaurant. This was back in the mid-1950s, and I remember on several occasions taking a washtub of 300 10-cent hamburgers to the field to feed hungry cotton choppers or pickers. However, something would soon happen that would change the face of small farming communities all across America, and the economy would never be the same again. This was the invention of the mechanical cotton picker, and thousands and thousands of low-income, often poorly educated people, would be out of work and would be forced to leave the farms. This was a time when a mass migration took place to large cities in the North and Midwest, and in many ways we are reaping the fruits of this era in our nation’s history. It has been my privilege to speak in 72 of our state’s 75 counties, so I have seen this first-hand, and with God’s help, I am going to do my best to do something about it.
The key to rebuilding a community starts with having superior schools, as this is the first thing that potential employers look at when they consider locating in a given town or city. This is why literacy is vital to making this happen. Our Bookcase for Every Child project can make a difference, and my new book, “My Heartfelt Passion: Saving Our Nation One Child at a Time” provides all the details to begin a project. My goal, and I don’t earn a penny from sales, is to have 10 to 15 copies in the hands of leaders in communities all across America. Order it from This is an invitation for the ages as good readers, like Jovoni, become good students.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)