A joyful event endeavors to place new books into the hands of Fort Dodge's second-grade students this week.
Katie Averill, of the Emily Joy Averill Foundation, visited St. Edmond Catholic Schools Wednesday and is touring elementary schools this week with a message of kindness and to advocate literacy with "Joy of Reading."
The foundation was established to honor Averill's daughter, Emily Joy Averill, 18, who was killed in a car accident June 2011.
Molly Myer, a second-grader at St. Edmond Catholic Schools, peruses her new copy of the book, “Have you Filled a Bucket Today?” by Carol McCloud in Ann Knobbe’s classroom. The books were donated to the students by the Emily Joy Averill Foundation. The foundation honors Emily Joy Averill, who was killed in a car accident in June 2011. Averill was a student helper in Knobbe’s classroom. Three hundred and sixty-seven second-graders throughout Fort Dodge will receive a copy of the book.
"Emily was a helper in a second-grade classroom, so we are giving books to 367 second-graders in Fort Dodge over the next three days," Averill said. "St. Edmond is where we're going to start. This is where Emily went to school, so it's a special beginning. Today is also Emily's birthday, so it's a very special day."
Averill said her daughter valued reading.
"I really believed Emily was going to be a teacher someday," she said. "The teacher who was supervising Emily has told me lots of wonderful stories about her sitting on the floor with kids at storytime. I think she would be very proud of what we're doing."
Being able to provide books to all of Fort Dodge's second-graders has not been an easy task, Averill said, but a worthwhile one.
"It's been a long-time process," she said. "We've been working on this for months with lots of help from different people in the community.
The book, "Have you Filled a Bucket Today?" by Carol McCloud, promotes kindness, sharing and being nice by filling another person's "bucket." Debbie Strode, a Fort Dodge native and friend of Averill's family, the Mills, was the event's special guest reader.
"I was a very close friend of the Mills family. My parents died when I was young. I had a bucket that was kind of empty and the Mills family filled it," Strode said. "I knew Emily and I just had to come and be here with them. They wanted me to read, and I thought, I'll do it."
Strode, as a former teacher, is experienced in speaking before eager, receptive children.
"I'm retired, but I've been practicing reading the book to a profoundly handicapped school in Fort Meyers, Florida," she said.
It was fulfilling to be with the kids as her effort was realized, Averill said.
"I've been really looking forward to today," she said. "I had a preview. I had the fourth-graders help me with assembling the books because those were the kids that were second-graders when Emily was a student helper."
Averill said she hopes she inspires children to read.
"My hope is we can hand it out to all 367 of them and give them a high-five and really encourage them to go on this path of reading and literacy," she said. "That's really the main focus. The fun is to see the kids and give them the books, but the focus of Joy of Reading really is promoting literacy."
The day was only the start of the foundation's efforts, Averill said.
"This is the beginning of I hope a big dream that we're going to realize," she said. "We're moving in the direction of literacy, we're partnering with all the schools. They're totally on board and have been very supportive. I think this is the beginning of something great."