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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 18, 200512:00 PM EST

United Way donates books in a major way

by: J. Brooks Terry

by J. Brooks Terry

Staff Writer

The gap between the community’s seniors and preschoolers may be shrinking thanks to a program spearheaded by United Way and its deep-pocketed partners.

The Multigenerational Early Literacy Collaboration is a initiative designed to promote positive images of the city’s elderly population to preschoolers.

A large part of that program includes a new series of books that will be given away to members of Mayor John Peyton’s Book Club.

The MELC program pairs senior citizens with middle and high school students. The seniors tell stories to the students, who later convert them into essays. Five of the essays are in the process of being converted into books.

In total, 50,000 books — 10,000 of each book — will be donated to local charities and book clubs.

“Peter and the Silent Siren,” the first book of that series, was unveiled Wednesday by Peyton and representatives from United Way and Bank of America. The latter donated $50,000 to help cover printing and distribution costs.

“The publishing of this first book has been several years in the making,” said Connie Hodges, United Way president. “There’s a great sense of satisfaction attached to seeing a project through from its conceptual stages to reality. We are very proud of everyone involved with the MELC effort and look forward to seeing the program grow and enrich the children of North Florida.”

“Peter and the Silent Alarm” is based on an essay written by Anthony Sotelo, a Douglas Anderson School of the Arts student, about his partner Bruce Van Fleet.

Subsequent books will be released later this year.

“I’m very excited about this campaign,” Peyton said. “Early literacy plays a very large part in future successes.

“Jacksonville is continuing to evolve into a learning community.”

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