(part of a new monthly series)

How did you first hear or learn about Books for Keeps?

I heard Melaney speak at the TEDxUGA event in 2016, and I immediately knew Books for Keeps was something I wanted to be involved in. Melaney’s message of thinking small — rather than being intimidated into inaction by a big task — resonated with me, and the notion of giving books to kids was equally compelling. As a professor of English and advisor of Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society at UNG, I also knew that this would be a great project to pass along to my students.

How long have you been volunteering or serving with Books for Keeps?

I did my first book distribution at Oglethorpe Elementary in May 2016 and have volunteered in various facets of the process since then. I’ve also worked in the warehouse and with the book sale (and have been an enthusiastic book sale customer). I enjoy seeing how the parts function to serve the bigger mission of BFK.

Why did you choose to serve on the Books for Keeps’ board?

I was ready to increase my commitment to Books for Keeps and thought that serving on the board would be a good way to do that. The timing was right.

Have you had an inspiring/memorable interaction with a student since working with Books for Keeps? (This can be a direct interaction or something you observed.) If so, tell us about it.

Book distributions are magical. Last year, after helping one student at Stroud Elementary School count his books, he jumped up and gave me a hug. It was this wonderful, joy-filled moment that really stuck with me. The work of the volunteers is such a small part of the distributions, but the effect is palpable.

Have you worked with other non-profits in the past? Which ones?

I’ve just finished my first year of a four-year term on the board of Sigma Tau Delta (ΣΤΔ) International English Honor Society and am co-advisor of the chapter on the Gainesville campus of the University of North Georgia. As with BFK, the timing was right to increase my involvement.

What strengths are you bringing to Books for Keeps?

I don’t live in Athens but am still committed to the community; I think this outsider’s perspective is helpful. I have some experience in event management, so I know the time and effort it takes to organize events. I think I’m also a good team member, and as a BFK volunteer and now board member, I’ve come to effort the way the parts fit together to make distributions a success. All the board members are passionate about the BFK cause, so I’m happy to join that kind of environment.

 

Do you have a keen childhood memory related to a particular book? Or an experience with reading – to yourself or to a loved one?

Two memories:
I don’t recall the title of the collection but vividly remember my parents reading Eugene Field’s “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” to me as a very young child. It was in an illustrated, multi-volume set of children’s classics, and its dark blue covers were well-worn.

I also remember when I was learning to read that I used to listen to books on cassette tape or record. My parents had a stereo system and a pair of those massive, corded headphones that nearly made you fall over if you leaned too far in one direction. I remember sitting in front of the double cassette deck with a flimsy, paperback copy of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad on my lap, following the words and turning the pages in tandem with the reading. When I worked the BFK book sale several years ago, I ran across a hardback copy of The Frog and Toad Collection. I bought it immediately.

What is your absolute favorite book?

Tom Jones by Henry Fielding. It’s one of the reasons I decided to become an eighteenth-century scholar, which is what I do when I’m not helping with BFK.

What would you read if you could only read one book for the rest of your life?

That’s a tough question. I read a lot for work — student writing, mostly, but also novels and criticism in my field of eighteenth-century studies, book history, and book illustration — so I can’t say that I’m the most avid of readers at home. However, when I do read for pleasure I like being surprised, sometimes by modern fiction, sometimes by an old novel that’s long forgotten. Reading for pleasure reminds me of the power of words, a power that transcends time and place and circumstance. I suppose if I had to narrow it to a single book, though, I’d say Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne. It’s an eighteenth-century novel, but it’s very entertaining and decidedly modern in many ways.