Donna Kerecz, manager of the Scioto Trail Pizza Hut in Portsmouth, is excited about getting the community involved in the program.
“Everyone who volunteers one hour at any Portsmouth Public Library branch or the bookmobile will count toward a total. Then on Oct. 2, we will have a party at the Portsmouth Public Library with lots of pizza for the community and hopefully to announce we won. We'll even have a band that day,” said Kerecz.
The party will take place whether or not Portsmouth wins the contest. On that same date, the Book It school program that runs from October to March will begin.
“The teachers set up the reading goals for the kids, and if they reach their goals, they get a pizza certificate,” said Kerecz. “Then when they come in, we congratulate them and make over them. It helps build self-esteem.”
The library that wins the competition will receive 1,000 children's books. To Kerecz, the purpose of the venture is to improve literacy in the youth of this area.
“This is very important to me,” said Kerecz. “When I was young, I was, and still am, dyslexic, and I got teased a lot, especially when I had to get up and read in front of the class. That is why literacy is so important to me.”
Jenny Lavender, program and publicity coordinator for the Portsmouth Public Library, said she is excited about the program for a lot of reasons.
“There are so many people in this community with so many different talents, and all of them can be put to use at the library,” said Lavender. “And once they are exposed to the library, maybe they'll want to come back more often.”
Kerecz won a national contest last year for a variation of the Book It promotion and said she believes that the Scioto County community can win again.
Those who wish to participate by volunteering, can sign up at any area Pizza Hut or Portsmouth Public Library branch. When filling out the entry, volunteers should list any talents they may have, or what they would like to do at the library. Lavender will set up the schedule.
“I'm excited about it, and I think it will be fun as well as rewarding,” she said. “My husband, Jon, has already volunteered 10 hours to bring our dog ‘Mick' in and have a reading session with the kids. Mick looks like Scooby-Doo, so the kids really enjoy it when Jon brings him in.”
Kerecz said that Pizza Hut created the Book It program in 1998 to encourage teachers to read aloud to children in preschool. Since that year, the company has invested nearly $500 million in the program, she said.
For more information, volunteers may call Kerecz at (740) 357-4415 or Lavender at (740) 353-5834.