Marking a Mega Milestone - The Missourian: Features People

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Marking a Mega Milestone

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Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 10:00 am

Some years are downright great. Ranking at the top for me is 2002 when a couple of guys came into my life and set me awhirl.

In March 2002, our first grandson Miles was born, and six months later The Missourian gave birth to Newsbee and Book Buzz, his literacy project.

Ten years later, Newsbee has flourished and so has Miles. Our fifth-grader is tall and lanky and always, always has his nose in a book — more often than not a Book Buzz Pick I’ve asked him to preview, along with his brother, Reed, an appropriate name since he’s following in Miles footsteps.

The boys, as well as our three little granddaughters, Avery, Phoebe and Parker, also have been brainwashed with books, and are equally hooked. Newsbee’s pleased as punch about that.

If you build it they will come — that line from the movie “Field of Dreams,” applies in the Kingdom of Buzzville. Since 2002, more than 10,000 quality, hardcover Book Buzz books have been donated to area schools through the program.

Each month, Newsbee writes about the books in The Missourian — then offers students the opportunity to send him reviews. Three are published in their community newspaper, with others appearing on emissourian.com. Sweet!

A decade ago, I didn’t know Dawn Kitchell, my colleague and close friend. Though it’s been awhile, the day she called is etched in my memory. I was cleaning my stovetop when the phone rang, and cradled it between my neck and ear as I set the top shining. Things heated up as we tossed ideas back and forth about having a book column for students in The Missourian, an offshoot of the Newspaper in Education program.

Before we hung up, I’d volunteered to help, in a very timid voice, sure I wasn’t experienced enough to be considered. Dawn didn’t turn me down, and we were off and running, trying to keep pace with Newsbee’s big blue shoes as he set his sights on the big hive in the sky, kicking off projects like Baby Buzz, the Run to Read, The Bee Spelling Bee, the Hive Cleaning Sale and author/illustrator visits at Family Reading Night.

I no longer have time to clean the stovetop, or anything else in the house. Dawn’s turned resident slob as well.

We just had no idea. Or rather we had an idea, but had no idea how it would take off. It seems we didn’t pay heed to where the Book Buzz seed was planted, in an area of do-gooders who want nothing but the best for young readers.

The first Book Buzz column debuted in The Missourian in September 2002. Shortly thereafter the Book Buzz wheels began to turn. Dawn and I took our project to the Washington Rotary Club. We dressed up a little bee to go along with us — Aubree, Dawn’s 6-year-old daughter decked out in antennae and sparkly wings. And that’s the shtick on how the Washington Rotary became a chum of Newsbee’s—along with other individuals, organizations and businesses convinced that providing funds to purchase books for children is an all-important mission.

It might sound corny to say that Book Buzz has changed my life, but it has. And Dawn’s as well. A whole generation of children have now been positively affected by Book Buzz, including Dawn’s three little ones, now become big, and my school-age and preschool grandchildren.

I’ve come to understand that a good book is a good book no matter what age it’s intended for. Need a laugh — crack open a copy of Newsbee’s youngest book for October — “The Obstinate Pen” by Frank Dormer, and you’ll see that picture books aren’t just for kids.

Then lose yourself in “Liar & Spy,” by Rebecca Stead, a little novel written for 9- to 12-year-olds that will captivate even the most discerning adult reader with its mysterious, odd characters, and heartwarming conclusion.

That book comes to you on Miles’ recommendation. I gave him the review copy to preview, needing an opinion. “Mee Mee, you’re going to love it. It’s great.”

And I did and I do and, God willing, I’ll live to see many more years of working with a literacy program that positively owns my heart, and so many others as well.

Hope to see you at Newsbee’s “Ten Years, 10,000 Books” birthday party on Sept. 30, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Washington Public Library. Read more about it in this weekend’s Missourian.

/features_people