March 2009 Articles
Janet S. Loew
A youngster at a library branch in Poland, Ohio picks up a book and begins to read. She stumbles over a few of the bigger words and looks up, hesitant about her mistake, but what she finds is a furry face with big loving eyes reassuring her that it’s fine. That’s the face of Hamish, the Borzoi hound.
But Hamish’s good looks aren’t shared only with those attending the program. This talented Borzoi and several of his young friends are also celebrities who have their very own “READ” poster at the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County (PLYMC). Our READ poster celebrities are shining role models that show how reading leads to success.
Hamish comes from a family of readers. In fact, his “human,” Megan, is also a librarian at PLYMC. He is a certified therapy dog with the local K9s for Compassion group and the program “Tales to Tails” helps children learn confidence by reading to canine friends who don’t judge their missteps. When people visit our libraries, they are often attracted to Hamish’s READ poster, which generates a warm fuzzy feeling about libraries and their role in helping to create successful readers from a very early age. Who else is reading in our community? Just about everyone – from Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams, to Youngstown State University Coach Jon Heacock, to the City Law Director Iris Torres Guglucello, to local TV, newspaper and radio personalities.
Noted authors, such as Chris Crutcher and Angela Johnson, have joined the list of celebrities on our local READ posters.
We’ve even got Abe Lincoln reading! How can you top that? The Butler Institute of American Art recently acquired the Norman Rockwell painting of young Lincoln reading. In our READ poster, Dr. Louis Zona, museum director, stands beside the painting with book in hand to create a striking image.
Our participants are powerful advocates for reading and the importance of libraries. Their pictures are truly worth a thousand words of support.
Since beginning our READ poster project in 2007, we’ve found that many people want to be the next to promote reading. The posters generated a buzz in the community about the library and we continue to add to the series.
We incorporated a variety of ages, occupations, genders, and cultures to bring diversity to the series. We succeeded in attracting a multicultural blend of people who would stand as role models for what could be achieved with reading and education. We engaged high-profile members of the news media, whose love of reading goes naturally with their chosen field. The project received a nice round of media coverage when the posters were unveiled.
The posters are exhibited in all 16 of our libraries and on our website, as well as locations throughout the county, including our county fair, and in our schools and school libraries. A special edition of our newsletter was dedicated to the READ posters and widely distributed around the county.
The posters continue to generate conversation and support of libraries. They have served to endear libraries to the community. The message that reading leads to success is one that is most important, especially in a time of diminished library funding when public support is crucial.
To view our posters and learn more: http://www.libraryvisit.org/read.htm