Serving as the event's grand marshal, The Bookmobile: Reading to go places! will take center stage at Saturday's 63rd annual Kiddie Day Parade.
"We were thrilled to be chosen as grand marshal of the parade," said Valerie Gilreath, The Bookmobile's executive director. "The Kiddie Day Parade is such a fun tradition in Cartersville and a creative way to raise funds and bring attention to the good work that the Kiwanis Club of Cartersville does for children year-round. We are honored to know they see the value in our program and want to help promote it via the Kiddie Day Parade.
"… The Bookmobile has been serving the community since July of 2017. The main objective is to get books into the hands of children and adults and to encourage families to read together. The Bookmobile acts as a lending library. We issue each participant a Bookmobile Library Card; each person can check out three books per visit. We ask that they bring the books back the next month. We don't charge any fees or fines. We hope that the books are returned, but we are prepared to replenish inventory periodically in case they aren't. In addition to the lending library function, The Bookmobile gives away books at each stop to encourage families to build their own home libraries."
Along with 1,002 books being checked out from The Bookmobile, the program has issued 257 library cards and given away about 2,100 books since its inception. While the mobile resource first focused on the south Bartow community, The Bookmobile is broadening its reach this year.
"Initially, we only served the Glade Road corridor in southeastern Bartow, but in January 2018 we expanded into Emerson," Gilreath said. "Those remain our target locations. I would love to see us expand into other parts of Bartow County, but it is a matter of funding and manpower. We also recently purchased a second vehicle, a surplus transit bus, but have not yet put it into service.
"This summer, we implemented our summer reading program for the first time. This was made possible by grants from the Cartersville Service League, the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia and the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy. The summer reading program targeted locations with weekly visits."
Presented by the Kiwanis Club of Cartersville, the Kiddie Day Parade will provide youth through fifth grade an opportunity to dress up in their favorite costumes. Along with walking, participants can travel through downtown Cartersville on decorated floats, strollers, bicycles and wagons.
"This year, the Cartersville Kiwanis Club is doing something new and exciting," stated the club's president, Dr. Linda Denham, in a news release. "They are suggesting children come as their favorite book character. They may, if they choose, donate a copy of their favorite book to The Bookmobile. There will be an opportunity for the crowds gathered to watch the parade to donate books to The Bookmobile as a wagon will be pulled through the parade to receive those books. Books may also be donated at the awards ceremony at the gold dome courthouse parking lot following the parade.
"The Cartersville Kiwanis Club will also be completing their Big Book Project where Mrs. [Amber] Corbin’s third grade class at Euharlee Elementary School will be accepting the complete Bookworm library of 15 titles with 25 copies for each child in her classroom to use. These books were donated by members of our community who will be present for Mrs. Corbin to thank each sponsor. This was a big project and the Cartersville Kiwanis Club could not have done [it] without the support of the community."
On Saturday, registration and lineup for the complimentary parade will begin at 9 a.m. in front of ShawHankins near the intersection of Bartow and Main streets, with judging following at 9:30 a.m. Starting at 10 a.m., the procession will travel down Main Street, then it will turn left on Gilmer Street, left on West Cherokee Avenue and end at the 1903 Gold-Domed Courthouse, where refreshments and prizes for the best entry and winners of each category — individual boys, individual girls, groups, bikes and floats — will be dispersed.
Along with the parade participants and The Bookmobile, the event also will feature the Cartersville High School Marching Band and Cass High School’s JROTC and flag corps.
"Reading early and often is one of the most important things families can do to increase their child's chance of school success," Gilreath said. "However, according to the Children's Literacy Foundation, 61 percent of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their home. Having books in the home is critical to a child's early language development.
"Only 34 percent of Bartow's children are reading on grade level at the end of the third grade — as measured by the Georgia Milestones test. Those remaining 66 percent are four times more likely to drop out of school. Dropping out of school then limits their opportunities to be self-sufficient adults. Reading in the home from birth really builds the foundation for a child's success. To be clear, this is not a problem unique to Bartow County. Communities all over the state and nation are wrestling with these same issues."