Author: Jerry Higgins, Communications Officer
Margaret McNamara, wife of then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, helped launch Reading is Fundamental (RIF) in 1966 after discovering children at a Washington, D.C. school did not have books of their own to read. She wanted reading to be a fun part of everyday life.
That same passion for reading exists today with Temple Evans, a youth counselor technician/transportation driver at Edgecombe Youth Development Center in Rocky Mount. She provides books to area youth through her Tyler & Timothy Book Drive – named after her two sons – after discovering youth had trouble reading or did not have books of their own. People donate new or used books, as well as funds to purchase new books for distribution during the year.
“When I first started with Juvenile Justice back in 2010 as a transportation driver, I realized how much these youth had a lack of reading skills,” Evans said. “Through my years in JJ, I kept seeing the numbers rise of youth who couldn’t read court documents or any other important documents that were handed to them.”
Evans spends time reading to children in places like Carver Head Start/Early Head Start in Mount Olive, a facility that is part of WAGES (Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency, Inc.) based in Goldsboro. Each child can take home a book.
“When I first started, I was not able to give every kid a book,” she said. “But through the years I’ve been able to give more than 100 kids books and provide extra books to schools. Many kids are not able to have books of their own, and the only time they read is at school.
“Also, many kids don’t get that library experience until a later age and some aren’t able to get brand new books. Even with book fairs, not all parents are able to give their children money to get some cool stuff. If I can put smiles on these kids’ faces from receiving a free book, I will continue to provide because reading is fundamental, and you utilize your reading skills every day.”
Deputy Secretary for Juvenile Justice William Lassiter said reaching out to youth early and encouraging them to read can make a big difference in the direction they take.
“So often in juvenile justice, we see young people we wish that we could have intervened with earlier to prevent their involvement in the system,” Lassiter said. “Temple had that feeling and decided to do something about it. I commend her for making a commitment to these young people. By giving these children a love for reading, she is providing them with a gift that will continue to pay dividends over a lifetime.”