Friday, June 26, 2009

Fall in love again

How glorious it must be to be a bookworm! Inching your way across an endless sea of books, taking in and savoring ever single word tucked into their pages.

At my core, I guess I am a bookworm. I devour the pages of novels every chance I get. In high school, I literally took advantage of every second, walking through the halls between classes, my nose was buried in the spine of a book. Teachers were amazed that I was able to maneuver the crowds without bumping in to anyone or anything.

My passion for reading was cultivated at the Stark County District Library’s North Branch. Regularly, my mom would take me there, letting me pluck from the shelf any book I wanted. My entire world was shaped by the complexity of stories and the sheer imagination shining through novels that challenged me to think outside the box and see new points of view.

Today, I don’t know what I do without my branch of the Akron Public Library. It’s a constant in an ever-changing, ever-evolving world.

Last week, Governor Ted Strickland announced a plan to save the state’s budget – which, believe me, needs saving like a sinking ship hauling concrete. He’s proposed a 30 percent cut in funding to Ohio’s public libraries, saving Ohio $113 million each of the next two years – about $227 million in all.

An editorial in Thursday’s Independent suggested that the libraries need to toughen up and count their losses. Because in the grand scheme of things, Ohio communities will be affected least of all by their losses.
I’m not sure which point hurts more. Expecting libraries to take the hit or the fact that, to many community members, the libraries are “irrelevant.”

Shame on us for letting our libraries become “irrelevant.” Shame on us for letting reading become passe.
In an effort to encourage reading this summer we plan to feature, on the Learning page, book reviews from well-known community members and educators. I’ve had a heckuva time lining them up. People just “don’t have time to read.” (And these are educators we are talking about. The same people who beg children to “put down video game controllers and – for goodness sake – pick up a book.” )

Library patronage is sky-rocketing, but we aren’t checking out books. We’re getting movies for free or looking for a CD download to our iPods.

What happened to our love of books? What happened to the days when kids walked out with armloads of books instead of the films based on them?

If, 30 years ago, the announcement had been made that libraries’ state funding would be cut in half, would we have noticed, then? How great would the repercussions have been if libraries lost half of their state funds in 1989, 1979 or 1969?

Why is it OK to slash the budgets in 2009?

Numbers surrounding the propsed cuts can be confusing. So here it is, the truth about Strickland’s announcement: Ohio libraries are looking at losing an additional 30 percent of their state funds this fiscal year.

Libraries were set to lose 20 percent of their state funds this year and they planned accordingly, cutting staff, freezing wages, cutting materials budgets. Last week’s announcement means that libraries are being asked to shoulder a 50 percent total loss – the original 20 percent, plus another 30 percent.

For the Stark County District library, it’s a $4.2 million loss each year.

Keep in mind, the SCDL already cut $1.68 million from the budget. Asking it to take another $2.52 million blow because the general public won’t notice is ludicrous.

The Massillon Public Library is set to lose $500,000 this and next year – $1 million in all – if the cuts are approved. For director Camille Leslie and her staff, $500,000 is more than it costs to operate the entire library system – main library, Bookmobile and both branches each year.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to make our libraries relevant again. It’s time to look at them as more than some kind of archaic Napster.

It’s time to fall in love with books.

But as any prince charming, white knight or tragic hero knows, you have to fight for what you love.
So to bookworms and librarians across the state I say, make noise. Go down swinging. Fight as loud and as long as you possibly can to preserve as many of the dollars your libraries have been alloted. If nothing else, know that your services are critical. They are valued by myself, my husband and our families. It breaks our hearts to think of what could be in store for you if these cuts are approved by the general assembly on Tuesday.

We’ll notice if you have to cut staff, close doors or stop buying new materials. It will matter to us.

For crying out loud, do not go quietly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Books, books, books ...

Bookworms take heart! Summer is here.

For me, that means many magnificent hours in the sun outside Starbucks with a an Iced Venti Toffee Nut Latte and a good book.

The Massillon City Schools and Massillon Public Library kicked-off the school year with a book give-away for kids and their parents. The idea being the family that reads together, learns together, grows closer together. To keeps books on everybody's minds this, we're working on getting some local "celebs" and area kids to write a couple of paragraphs a book they love – one they would recommend to a friend or family member. We'll run the "reviews" in the Learning section every Saturday.

My goal is, as I continue to read this summer, let you in on the stories that I enjoy and could have lived without.

One of my favorite authors, Sarah Addison Allen, has been compared to Alice Hoffman. Although, I had never read any of her books, Hoffman does have a very dedicated, little following so I decided to give her a read. Yesterday, I finished "Blackbird House" my first book by the aforementioned author.

Great stuff!

The book is unique in that it's a biography of home. The story starts when the home was built and chronicals the very different lives of the men, women and children who have found solace and heartbreak within it's walls. Each chapter combines into a series of beautifully-written vignettes that prove that time and space never really change the human spirit or our longing for love, whole and complete.

So, Alice Hoffman fans, this is your chance. Which of books are must reads this summer?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Studio M

"Next" will soon be the new now at the Massillon Museum's Studio M.

Canton resident Michelle Waalkes of Canton will be showcasing her work in an exhibit-titled "Next" which will open Dec. 13 in the Fred F. Silk Community Room. The entire community is invited to the opening night reception from 7-9 p.m.

Her work is a magnificent fusion of mediums and textiles all designed to create beautiful moods that both represent and mimic life.

“I seek to fuse my love of photography, graphics, and fibers into conceptual pieces for the viewer to discover and contemplate,” Waalkes says. “Recurring themes in my predominately fibers/mixed media works include the transience of life in time, as well as the feelings evoked by diverse natural, cultural, and architectural spaces.”

Waalkes, a Malone University graduate, currently serves as curator for the 2nd April Galerie in downtown Canton. Her work was also selected by a panel of jurors to be a part of the Massillon Museum's Stark County Artists Exhibition in 2007."Indecisive" by Michele Waalkes"Unmoored" by Michelle Waalkes

Thanks and giving

Giving isn't always the easy thing to do. It is, however, always the most rewarding.

Massillon area families can sit down to healthy, hearty holiday meals this Thanksgiving and Christmas, in part because of the generosity of children they have never met.

The students at Hope Academy in Canton collected canned goods and non-perishable items that were boxed up and donated to the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank and the Massillon-Walnut Hills food cupboard.

Heather Brewer, a Massillon resident and teacher at Hope Academy, noted that the generosity of the students was over-whelming. After only four days of collecting the 350 students at the school had donated more than 2,000 cans of food during the week-long drive.

"I got teary-eyed when I called the PTO president to tell them how well (the donation drive) was going," Brewer said.

It was the Williams family, though, that showed the greatest dedication to the cause. The children – Joy, Jackquelin and Jason Williams and Jemini Turner – donated approximately 650 cans of food combined.

"One little boy brought in 166 cans of food by himself," Brewer said. "His brothers and sisters also brought in more than 100 each."

What makes the Hope Academy students' donations so special is the fact that many of the students' families don't have much to give to begin with. According to Brewer, more than 80 percent of the students who attend Hope Academy receive free and reduced lunches, due to limited family income. To see the students and their families give out of love and kindness - even when it seems difficult to do - is truly inspiring, Brewer said.

"I am so proud of all of them," Brewer said. "They all understand that they are doing something really nice for the community. This is the second fundraiser we have done and this one turned out to be really successful."

The two classes who donated the most cans will get to celebrate their generosity with a pizza parties, Brewer noted.

"They have brought in boxes and bags of food every day," Brewer said. "It's just a little prize, but it's something they really deserve."

Photo captions:

Above center: Hope Academy students (front from left ) Kielee Showalter, Graham Moore, Jemini Turner, Jason williams, (back row) Bionca Burton, Shyloe Mayle, Sterling Moore, Joy Williams, and Jackquelin Williams show off some of the food they donated.

Above left: Hope Academy students pack up cans of food to distribute.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hearts of gold

Treasures aren't really all they are cracked up to be.

Sharing those treasures, that's where the real joy is found.

Children at St. Barbara Catholic School are finding the more they give from their allowance and, ultimately, from their hearts, they are getting far more in return.

Every other Thursday, the children have the chance to toss some coins and dollar bills into the offering during a collection that is taken at Mass. The school's student council decides which charitable group or organization will receive the monetarary gifts.

Gifts that they are learning make a huge difference in the world around them. Yes, Jesus took two fish and five loaves to feed multitudes of people. Imagine what God can do with a couple hundred dollars.

So far, St. Barbara students have donated more than $300 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Fund. This time, they collected just more than $100. That money, according to school principal Bob Otte, will be given to the Diabetes Foundation.

The school year has really just started. Imagine what the kids can do with all that they have to give in seven months to come.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Great Scott!

Art Bomb tattoos is taking a trip back in time with this month's Midnight Movie Showing Nov. 22 at the Lions Lincoln Theatre.

They're starting on Oct. 26, 1985 and careening back to the 1950s with Marty McFly and Doc Brown with Steven Speilberg's "Back to the Future"

Those in attendance may even have the chance to check out one of the famous, though rare, Deloreans like the one featured in the film. Weather permitting, the car will be on display.

The tattoo parlor is asking die-hard McFly fans to don their best "Back to the Future" duds for a costume contest. The winner could win a movie-inspired tattoo valued at $250.

Tickets are $5 at the door and the stubs can be used later as a coupon for $5 off any tattoo or piercing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Class of his own

Maybe the greatest lessons Dave Harding teaches aren't the ones penciled into his planner.

In fact, I'm sure of it.

Thirty nine years after taking the helm of his own classroom, Mr. Harding is in a class all his own. Recently, Mr. Harding was chosen as Teacher for Year for Stark County - it's an award he truly deserves.

Ask nearly anyone at Washington High and I am certain they will tell you the same thing. Mr. Harding is the heart and soul of Washington High School. He has spent each of 39 years at the school and he isn't planning on walking away any time soon.

He couldn't do that. He cares too much.

Before the sun comes up, Mr. Harding is there. He's meeting with kids, preparing them for Academic Challenge meets, helping them develop community service projects and encouraging them to be active leaders in the world around them.

When I spoke with Mr. Harding today about the award he received, he seemed uncomfortable. It's not in his nature to talk about himself. He was eager, instead, to talk about the students. He wanted to tell me about the things that they were learning, the talents they have and the strengths they have fostered - all things he said will allow them to do and be whatever they can dream.

He smiled and said he only opens the door opportunity for them to walk through.

I believe he does much more.

It is true that Massillon students are destined to do great things. The plaques that line the lobby at Washington High detailing the accomplishments of the school's Distinguished Citizens are proof of that. But those alumni accomplishments aren't possible because of anything they have done on their own. When they come back to Massillon, each and every one of them points to a teacher, a community member a friend who inspired them and taught them to believe in themselves and, more importantly, in their dreams.

That's what Mr. Harding does best. And it's what teaching is all about.

Yes, Mr. Harding's class is about learning to appreciate literature, stories and language but what he teaches is faithfulness, sacrifice and humility.

He teaches faithfulness every morning when he arrives at school before the sun comes up to prepare students for Academic Challenge meets or help them develop community service projects. He teaches sacrifice when he gives up his lunch hours or planning periods to meet with students. He teaches humility, simply because he is humble.

I believe whole-heartedly that Mr. Harding is Stark County's Teacher of the Year. His passion for his job and his students is nearly unmatchable. Mr. Harding is truly in his element, when he is surrounded by his students, when he is teaching and changing lives.

The smile on his face says it all.