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DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project delights preschoolers

DeKalb resident Yvonne Holler reads to her four-year-old daughter every night before bedtime, but from now on, daughter D’Maris will have more books to choose.

D’Maris Holler was among the 50 preschoolers who received a free wooden bookcase and more than 30 books Saturday through the DeKalb/Sycamore Bookcase Project.

“She’s excited,” Holler said. “She just can’t wait to start reading.”

The children were all part of Two Rivers Head Start, a preschool agency that teaches disadvantaged children ages 3 to 5. They held a lottery to randomly select which of the 119 children would be eligible to take home the books and bookcase.

Bookcases had each child’s name engraved onto a brass plate. The bookcases were constructed by Jim Worrell and his workshop volunteers, said Carol Abrahamson, book collection volunteer.

The books were donated by community members, including parents with children in District 428 schools. Abrahamson estimated they received more than 4,000 books. Books that weren’t a great fit for for the project, including chapter books and gender-specific books, were donated to Hope Haven’s residential library, Abrahamson said.

DeKalb mayor-elect John Rey was the chairperson for the Bookcase Project. He received help organizing the event from members of the Steering Committee.

Each child received the books in a tote with designs painted by Serena High School’s art class. Each tote had a book-themed illustration on it. Religious books and books written in Spanish were also on a table for people to take home.

When Jaden Rogers, 4, first saw his books, his face lit up. He picked up a Christmas book and pointed at the picture.

“I know who this is,” he said. “It’s Rudolph!”

Andrea Galitz, Two River Head Start program education coordinator, said the Bookcase Project is the biggest donation they receive for the families all year. Families in the Two River Head Start agency meet federal low-income guidelines.

Teachers in the program visit their students’ homes each year in August, Galitz said.

“One child took his teacher’s hand and showed her his bookshelf months later, and it was still on proud display,” Galitz said.

In its second year, the Bookcase Project has grown to include volunteers from Northern Illinois University.

Some of those volunteers, like Sigma Lambda Sigma sorority member Megan Graf, read books to the children during the event. As an elementary education major, Graf loves reading aloud to young children.

“A couple of them were rolling around [on the rug], but they slowly gravitate towards you and predict what’s going to happen next,” she said.

For Yvonne Holler, the future will involve a lot more reading with her daughter.

“I’m more excited than she is, I think,” Holler said.

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