No. 586



Thanks to my good friend Dr. Roy Grizzell from Monticello, Arkansas, I want to tell you about a teacher who went the extra mile. Her name is Georgina Smith, and she is an elementary science teacher in Brooklyn, New York. I would never have known about Georgina, had Roy not sent me an article that appeared in the September 2006 issue of Guideposts.
More about her going the extra mile, in a moment, but first just a word about Dr. Grizzell and the occasion he had to write to me.Roy and I are fellow Lions, and when I was extended an invitation to speak to the annual Monticello-Drew County Chamber of Commerce banquet, he and his wife, Virginia, invited me to stay overnight in their home. Unfortunately, because I had my friend, Mickey Cox, with me, and we both needed to return home to keep commitments the following day, it did not work out.
The purpose and central theme of my speech was to launch a "Bookcase for Every Child" project in this progressive community in Southeast Arkansas. This relates to what I was saying earlier about Georgina Smith and the reason Dr. Grizzell sent me the article. It is also a clear indication that one person can make a difference, if they are willing to get involved.
Here is the essence of the story. Every evening while driving home from Brooklyn College, while studying for a master's in education, she would pass a Clean Rite Launderette teeming with children, their parents doing the wash. As she said, "some were playing video games, others stared at the laundry's TV. All of them raced around, playing bumper cars with the laundry carts, until a mother would jump up and yell." Not once did she see a kid reading or doing homework. She went on to say that eventually she took a job teaching science at a Brooklyn elementary school.
Not many people would consider this a dream job, but it was to her. She had recently left a 20-year career as a corporate executive to do something more meaningful and fulfilling with her life. She says that now every day she has the opportunity to change children's lives. As she said, "My biggest challenge - one that every inner-city educator faces - is how can I get kids interested in reading outside the classroom? I might inject here, this is something that not just inner-city educators face, but every teacher in our nation, as they teach, mold character and foster the values of each of their children."
To make a long story short, here is what Georgina did that proves one person can indeed make a difference. She said the first thing she did was "get ahold of John Sabino, president of the 81-store laundry chain, telling him she had a great idea to help his customers." Within 10 minutes, she had sold him. A few weeks later she pulled up to a Clean Rite a little after 6 p.m. She then lugged 50 books inside and arranged them on tables that Mr. Sabino had provided.
Some were books the school was discarding, others were her own. Soon the kids and their parents began to arrive. At first, the kids did not know what to make of the "library." Soon their curiosity got the best of them. "Hey, here's one about planets and stars," said a boy, maybe 9 years old. Another boy plopped down next to him. They read the book together, surprising their parents. Many had never seen their children talk animatedly about a book before. Georgina went on to say, "This was as good as any learning miracle I had seen in a classroom.
My instincts had told me that these children, like all children, had learning potential. All we needed was to find a way to tap it." When she closed the "library" two hours later, the kids helped her pack up the books and demanded to know when she was coming back. Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, she promised. Her idea has expanded tremendously.I hope this article will spark some interest in ways you can get involved to help solve our nation's literacy problem. ---(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")