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Ranger Bill' promotes child literacy in Henry

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

A local resident hopes a new project geared toward children will help to convey the importance of reading, while also instilling positive values.

"Ranger Bill" Arndell, 59, of Ellenwood will sign copies of his book, "Color With Speedy and Friends," all day Saturday and Sunday. He will be at The Pumpkin Patch, located at 3565 North Highway 155, in Stockbridge.

The coloring book is the latest in a series of works featuring Speedy the Beaver, and other animals based on those which Arndell encountered in his childhood.

Arndell's career as an author began a decade ago, at the conclusion of his career as an officer in the East Point Police Department. The catalyst for his transition, Arndell says, came while he was working in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. "I started to see a lot of the same kids over and over," Arndell says. "DARE is a good program, but I felt like I could do more to help them."

To that end, Arndell regularly visits libraries in area schools, many times decked out in a costume as Speedy. He introduces them to his books, which contain story lines and lessons designed to teach kids from kindergarten through 10 years old.

Arndell describes reading as "one of the most important things a child can learn." He says his goal is to make a difference in the lives of children and parents, by teaching kids lessons they may not learn elsewhere. "Today, our families and communities are subjected to pressures which were unheard of 30-40 years ago," added Arndell. "Many of us need help dealing with this frightening threat to our children's health and well being."

Remi Bryant works with Arndell as an illustrator for his books. She says her involvement in the effort has evolved somewhat since its inception. "I wanted to revamp the project he already had in progress," says Bryant. "I changed some of the artwork, and came up with some fresh ideas for the characters in the books."

She says her involvement in the Speedy series began strictly on a professional level, but has given her a deeper desire to make an impact on kids' lives. "I'm getting them interested in reading and using their imagination," continued Bryant. "I came up with the idea of making the Speedy character more inventive and creative, because it is important to teach kids to be the same way."

"Ranger Bill" says placing an emphasis on literacy among young people, is much needed in today's society. He adds he wants to do his part to counteract some of the focus often given to certain activities, at the expense of education. "We need to quit buying kids baseballs and basketballs, and put a book in their hands."

For more information the Speedy books, visit www.speedysplayhouse.com.