Some of the close to 450 children in the Allen County court system May 29 will be receiving the gift of reading – a book of their own.
Lori Morgan, magistrate in the Allen Superior Court Family Relations Division, started the program. Morgan said she got the idea from a similar project in Indianapolis. The local program received 300 donated books through the national program, The Justice Project. The books target ages 5 through 18.
Rex McFarren, Allen County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) director, said they are trying to encourage the children to read. Reading is a fundamental skill everyone uses in his or her day-to-day routine. By bringing attention to reading in a positive way it helps kids to get involved in reading early on.
Court-appointed advocates are the voices of the children in the legal system in Allen County. The volunteers will distribute the books to area children to whom they believe it will make a difference. CASA is a national network of 946 programs that trains and supports volunteers to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom and other settings.
Morgan said by giving the children their own book the advocates are also sending the message that the children are cared about and loved.
“These kids may not be our biological children, but we think of them as our children,” Morgan said.
Nancy Springer, coordinator at Great KIDS make Great COMMUNITIES, said her group has a list of 40 developmental building blocks that children should have; calling a child by his or her name is part of that and is another aspect of this project. It helps the children to realize they are valuable people. Each of the books has a nameplate in the front, and once the child selects a book his or her name will be written in it.
Many of the children in the program have very few possessions. By giving them this book, Morgan said, children have a gift they can hold onto, with their own name on it, for a lifetime.
Guests scheduled for the news conference and presentation next Thursday in the Allen County Court House rotunda include Noah benShea, The Justice Project director, and international besting-selling author Trish Whitcomb.