By Joel Hall
Volunteers from across Clayton County will come together this weekend to appreciate the county's nature trails and encourage child literacy. The five Kiwanis clubs of Clayton County and the Headquarters Library in Jonesboro will host "Walk for Reading," this Saturday, starting at 9 a.m.
Volunteers will walk approximately three miles along the Jester's Creek Trail, making a round-trip from the Headquarters Library at 865 Battle Creek Road, to Mt. Zion Road in Morrow, near Tara Elementary School. The proceeds of the walk will go toward purchasing books to be used as rewards for local students involved in the Clayton County Library System's Vacation Reading Program, according to Clayton County library officials.
Mike Mead, assistant athletic director for cross-country track at Clayton State University, also serves as secretary of the Kiwanis Club of Southlake in Morrow, and is an organizer of the event. He said this is the second time that the Kiwanis clubs of Southlake (Morrow), Jonesboro, Forest Park, Riverdale, and the Golden K (Shellnut Inter-Generational Center) have combined their efforts for the walk.
"We feel that literacy is always a great issue," Mead said. "Nowadays, it's a double whammy if you can't read, because you can't use computers. If you don't read well or comprehend, you are going to have a difficult time getting into college and getting a good job later on in life.
"If you have people with better paying jobs in the area, it requires less [public] resources," he added. "It's a win-win situation for the community if everybody can read."
The proceeds of the walk will be used to give paperback books to every student in the Vacation Reading Program who reads 18 books, or for nine hours total, during the course of their summer vacation. According to the Carol Stewart, director of library services for Clayton County, 6,271 students enrolled in the program last year and 1,969 reached their reading goal and received a book.
Stewart said the library has hosted the program for more than 30 summers in an effort to help local students maintain their reading comprehension. She said the books serve as a "good motivational tool."
"A lot of kids don't have personal libraries at home," Stewart said. "We want to focus on reading over the summer because they say that kids who don't read can lose up to a grade level or more [of reading comprehension]. If they read over the summer, they can maintain it or increase it."
Mead said the event will also serve as a way to educate more people about the county's nature trail system. He said Jester's Creek Trail, which starts near the Headquarters Library, is still unknown to many people.
"Last year, half the walkers didn't really know that it existed and they were surprised by it and really enjoyed it," he said. "It's a resource that is right here that they can utilize in Clayton County. Perhaps if some of our county leaders see this, they will say that we need more of these."
Prior to Saturday, registration fees for the walk will be $10 with a commemorative T-shirt and $5 without. On the day of the walk, registration will be $15 with a shirt and $8 without. Families with three to six members can register before the walk for $25 (includes T-shirts) and for $40 on the day of the walk.
For more information, contact the Clayton County Headquarters Library at (770) 473-3850.