Killeen, Texas — Remember the days when librarians seemed to be all about keeping things quiet?
The once familiar image encouraging undisturbed silence – a forefinger carefully pressed against closed lips – isn’t something patrons of the A&M-Central Texas University Library are likely to see unless they’re visiting the quiet zone of the library’s second floor. What they are more likely to see, however, might surprise them.
To be sure, there are plenty of traditional students on the A&M-Central Texas campus in the summertime, and they are decidedly engaged in the required scholarly activities of any university student in a library.
But amid the researching and writing term papers and the completion of the required assignments, there are dozens of curious elementary school aged children, ages ranging from 1st graders to 3rd graders, happily engaged in a free, half-day reading camp, all initiated, staffed, and supplied by the A&M-Central Texas University Library and a small committee of faculty, students, alumni, and volunteers.
Bessie Miller, whose official title is Circulation Coordinator, has anything but a traditional orientation to her job, initiating the Little Warriors Bootcamp in 2014 that was so successful, it’s been repeated every year since. This year, she was asked to create the Summer Enrichment Program for Lampasas ISD.
Taylor Creek Elementary School Principal, Renee Cummings, applauds the joint effort and those involved, acknowledging the importance of the new relationship between school and university.
“I am both excited and thankful,” she began. “And I am certain that the students of Taylor Creek Elementary will prosper from this amazing opportunity.”
Students from the College of Education and Dr. Agnes Tang, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, Sharon Zapp, A&M-Central Texas Alumni, Class of 2014, and Sara Lacomb, A&M-Central Texas Alumni, Class of 2017, planned a month long program beginning the first week of June, providing an individualized initial assessment for each child, as well as reading enrichment activities with a 4:1 student teacher ratio.
University Library Director, Brigit McCafferty, beams with pride when she is asked about the program, and the staffers, faculty, students, alumni and volunteers who made it happen.
“We understand the importance of literacy and being of service to the communities in our region, so we find a way to make it happen,” she explained. “We are using reading materials from a previous grant, contributing staff time, and the district pays for transportation. It’s been a team effort, and everyone has made a contribution. It’s something we are happy to be able to do.”
The project is also music to the ears of Tony and Jerrie Sue Cleaver, longtime Killeen residents and A&M-Central Texas donors, who established a children’s reading nook in the University Library three years ago.
“As a young child, I remember going to visit a university,” said Tony. “It was a special place. It was the first time my young mind stopped to imagine what I could do with an education. All of a sudden, everything I did in school became more relevant. It wasn’t just school,” he paused. “It was the rest of my life.”
That’s why the Cleavers established the reading nook, a brightly colored 200 square foot niche with books for children of all ages.
“We wanted to encourage the parents who needed to study to bring their children with them when they study,” he explained. “Because a love for reading becomes the foundation for everything else they’ll do.”
Lampasas ISD Superintendent, Chane Rascoe, echoes the excitement over the program and the budding partnership between the district and the University.
“We are really excited and extremely pleased with the initiative demonstrated by A&M-Central Texas and the University Library. We hope that this partnership continues to grow and do great things for the kids,” he said.“They’re doing so much to improve their futures when they learn to excel at and love reading. It’s completely life changing.
About Texas A&M University-Central Texas
Texas A&M University-Central Texas was established in 2009 as a member of The Texas A&M University System, one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation. A&M-Central Texas is an upper-level institution, fully aligned with regional community colleges and offering quality bachelor’s and master’s degrees with an emphasis on access and affordability.