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Dream of library becomes reality at Walter Bickett Ed Center

Walter Bickett Education Pre-K EC teacher Anita Melton Gross has finally made a dream come true -- the completion of a library at her school that will enable students to check out books and take them home to read. She is pictured during a recent open house at the library.

It started as a dream, but after a year of determination and hard work, that dream became a reality.

The dream, which belonged to Walter Bickett Education Pre-K EC teacher Anita Melton Gross, was simple – build a library that would enable students to read, not only at school, but at home, as well.

“It started very small,” she said. “My vision was to have books that would go on a shelf that could go classroom to classroom. Our preschoolers need to be exposed to more books.”

She then turned to the community for support. “The books started coming in by the hundreds,” she said. “So I said, ‘I need a room to house all these books’.”

The solution – a large storage room at Walter Bickett Education Center. But with the help of students from Cuthbertson High School, the storage room became a colorful, brightly decorated library – a place where students would feel comfortable visiting and checking out books to take home.

Donations from the community didn’t just stop with books. Items such as bookshelves, carpet and computer equipment were also donated. “Ninety percent of everything in the library is donated,” Gross said.

The library features 15 bookshelves, built low enough so that Pre-K and kindergarten students are able to reach.

When all was said and done, more than 5,000 books were collected for the library. “All the books are age-appropriate for three- and four-year-olds. Our goal is to get a book in every home, every week.”

Not all the books were for pre-K and kindergarten. Some of the books that were donated were for older children -- elementary, middle and high school students. But Gross had a solution for that – pay it forward.

Walter Bickett Education Center has also built a partnership with a school in Africa. Gross said any books that the library could not use were shipped to a school in Africa called the Potters House.

Ken Roess, the Walter Bickett Education Center Site Administrator, said the success of the library wasn’t possible without the support of the community. “We’ve had that in spades,” he said. “We continue to have that support.”

An example of this support was a student-led book drive from Forest Hills High School that collected 926 books and the promise to repeat the drive on an annual basis.

“There’s a big push for literacy,” Roess said. “We’re putting books in the hands of kids, both here at school and then allowing them to take them home and then exchanging them a week later. We’re promoting literacy and the partnership with parents who are reading to the kids. All a way around, it’s a win-win.”

Gross said she could not have made this dream a reality without the support of the community. “It wasn’t just one person. It was a vision, and I shared that vision with the others. They all came together and we built this beautiful library that will not only be great for today’s students, but students 10, 20 and 30 years to come.”

Some of the other community participants include Lee Park Baptist Church, NCATA Alpha Delta Kappa Educational Sorority, Central United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of Monroe, Light of Christ United Methodist Church, South Monroe Church, the Carter Howes family, Sky Panels, Union County Child Alliance, the Melton family, the Stanly family, the Morgan family, Brixx Pizza, Cuthbertson High School, Forest Hills High School, Union Academy, Wesley Chapel Elementary, Weddington Elementary, UCPS Technology & Media departments, the UCPS Maintenance Department, UCPS Exceptional Children’s Department, and Walter Bickett Education Center staff and parents.

Gross’ vision doesn’t stop now that the doors have been opened. “We want every child to read every book in this room,” she said.

That may be a big dream, but if Gross has anything to do with it, that dream will also become a reality.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Mar 27, 2014 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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