Senior Staff Writer
It was a "high point" for the Marshall County Memorial Library when Gov. Bill Haslam's wife, Crissy, read to nearly 100 children and other library patrons on Tuesday afternoon when Tennessee's first lady encouraged parents to read to their children daily.
Her READ20 Family Book Club is promoted in conjunction with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and the Governor's Foundation, a funding system that sprung from former Gov. Phil Bredesen's program called Books From Birth - all of which acknowledge parental attention to reading helps children when they start school.
"This really is a high point for this library," Library Director Jan Allen said during a punch and cookies reception that followed Haslam's attention to preschoolers. "I'm happy that it's happening for the library."
READ20 encourages parents to read together for at least 20 minutes daily.
"If parents read to their children for 20 minutes each day, students are likely to be significantly more successful in school," Haslam said. "Tennessee is fortunate to have the Imagination Library as a unique resource for families, providing free books for children from birth to age five so that families can start reading together beginning at birth."
Jennifer Atkins of Colburn Drive brought her children, Bailee, 14 months, and Andy, 4, to the library and they got a front row seat near Haslam.
"They both like to be read to," said Atkins, wife of Mike Atkin.
During Haslam's reading of "The Little Engine That Could," Bailee "was being excited" and started walking from the inner circle, but Andy went and picked her up and carried her back to the front row.
Jennifer Atkins is a 1998 graduate of Marshall County High School who went on to get an associate's degree in applied sciences, which she used in her work before having children. "Now, I'm a stay-at-home mom until they go to school."
Haslam "seemed like she really enjoyed reading to the kids," Atkins said.
Emily McClain brought her daughter, Teagan, 2, and her son, Adrian, 5, and said, "They liked it."
The first lady noted that this year is the 60th anniversary of the publication of "Charlotte's Web" by E. B. White. It's about a pig, Wilbur, and a spider, Charlotte, who saves him. Five copies of that book were donated to the library on Old Farmington Road.
"We probably had four or five copies, but some are worn," Jan Allen said. "This is great. We can replace them. We need to."