Drive nets book bonanza

(From left) Henrico Ministers Conference vice president Rev. Zynora D. Manson, president Rev. Dr. Duane Hardy and Glen Lea Elementary School PTA President Mrs. Williams display some of the books donated recently by the HMC to the school's PTA.
Hundreds of Eastern Henrico elementary school students – many of whom don’t have books of their own at home – soon will have new reading materials, thanks to the generosity of a number of local churches.

The Henrico Ministers Conference, which counts nearly 50 members from churches throughout the county, collected about 1,200 books and recently donated them in equal quantities to the PTAs at Glen Lea, Montrose and Ratcliffe elementaries, which will distribute them to students at the schools.

The organization’s “Literacy Drive” was designed as a way to encourage reading among students who might not otherwise read at home, according to the organization’s vice president, Zynora D. Manson. The three schools are the only elementary schools in the county denied accreditation by the state last year – the result, in part, of their lower-than-required reading scores on Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests.

Many families whose children attend the three schools are living in or near poverty, which means that reading may not be a priority in those homes “because they’re just trying to survive,” said Manson, the associate minister at Seven Pines Baptist Church and a music teacher in Henrico’s public school system for the past 32 years.

For those students, developing an interest in reading may be as simple as having something to read leisurely.

“If they have something [to read] they're interested in, that's going to help their abilities,” Manson said.

Manson has a unique perspective on the issue, because she has worked with thousands of Henrico students during her long career and currently teaches at Ward Elementary in Varina and one day a week at Glen Lea.

“There is a need for more support at home,” she said. “At school, we're doing all we can to help the children to learn to read and comprehend. But resources at home are limited.”

Empowering children
Members of the Ministers Conference are hopeful that the donated books – most of which were purchased new, all of which were pre-screened by the group to ensure that they were appropriate and of interest to specific grade levels – will help to address that issue. They are encouraging families to dedicate at least 15 to 20 minutes daily for their children to read at home.

Among the churches that contributed to the donation: Antioch Baptist, Mt. Olive Baptist, Body of Christ, Rising Mt. Zion (Sandston), Rising Mt. Zion (New Kent), Bethany Baptist, Seven Pines Baptist, First Bethel, Anointed New Life, Light Community and New Bridge Baptist. Several others, including Fountain Baptist and St. Peter Baptist, are still collecting books for donation.

Additional books that are collected will be donated to Baker Elementary in Varina, which suffered damage and loss of numerous materials and supplies during a recent fire.

Members of the Ministers Conference, which is led by President Rev. Dr. Duane Hardy (the pastor of Seven Pines Baptist Church), hope to make the book collection an annual event – one that will reach twice as many students next year. They also plan to host a collection drive for winter hats, gloves and socks later this year. Those items would be donated to students in need, as well.

The organization has existed for decades but until recently was primarily a group that fostered fellowship and networking among Henrico pastors and ministers, according Manson.

But in recent years, the group has aimed to add community outreach to its mission, and its book collection program seemed a natural fit, she said.

"We wanted to show people that we're interested in people, we're interested in making a difference in people's lives in Henrico County,” Manson said. “We believe we're empowering the children to want to read more – at home.

“We can read to them at school, but they have to have the resources at home.”

To donate books or contribute financially to the Henrico Ministers Conference’s Literacy Drive, e-mail HMC President Rev. Dr. Duane Hardy, pastor of Seven Pines Baptist Church, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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