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Citizen Staff Writer



Doris Ford wants children of all races to know they can be anything they dream of.

The retired educator returned to the classroom Monday to read to students at Ford Elementary School, 8001 E. Stella Road, as part of Love of Reading Week.

“It’s important for all children to see diversity on all levels, and to know that everybody has something to contribute, regardless of ethnicity, race or age,” says Ford, 68.

Her résumé includes stints as a vice president at the University of Arizona, vice chancellor at Pima Community College and a Harvard dean.

Ford, who is not the school’s namesake, read to the second-grade class. The book was about Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave who led hundreds of other slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad.

Ford then spoke of historic change in Washington, D.C., with the election of Barack Obama.

“When I mentioned his name, one African-American girl quietly pointed at her own skin color,” Ford says. “It was wonderful.”

Love of Reading Week is a national celebration that promotes an appreciation of literature among students and adults. As part of the celebration here, thousands of volunteers read to classrooms full of young, eager children.

This year, Love of Reading coincidentally fell in the same week that marked the 100th anniversary of the NAACP on Feb. 12.

In a symbolic gesture, Ronald Wilson, chief presiding judge for South Tucson, rounded up more than 100 volunteer readers to team up with the TUSD African American Studies Department. The volunteers, young professionals and college students, were assigned to a select group of schools.

“The illiteracy rate in communities of color is high,” Wilson says. “Going into the communities to read to children is a great way to reduce that rate. I wanted to use this opportunity to expose young children to reading.”

In addition to Wilson’s group of volunteer readers, Sonia Gissart of TUSD’s African American Studies enlisted about 60 volunteers from Tucson’s African-American community.

“This year has been super,” Gissart says. “The African-American community really came together for the cause and was eager to participate.”

Donna Liggins, president of the Tucson Branch of the NAACP, says she is deeply grateful for all the work that Wilson and Gissart put into finding volunteers to read to children. She says the NAACP holds strong educational values and is committed to helping communities succeed in raising educated children.

“If you don’t know how to read, what can you do?” Liggins says. “Without the ability read, it is hard to become a productive member of society.”

She is hopeful that communities will continue to take an interest in children’s education year-round while fighting stereotypes and other social ills that could have an adverse affect on youth.

Says Liggins, “The NAACP fights for our children to be and remain educated in society.”

Love of Reading Week also inspires children to dream, succeed


More than 10,000 students in 55 elementary schools throughout Pima Country participated in the first “Qwest for Education” with local literary program Reading Seed.

The Qwest Foundation donated $10,000 to Reading Seed in an effort to help the event that almost didn’t happen.

“We were realizing that we had some expenses and previous companies were unable to follow through with their pledges,” says Betty Kalil Knott, executive director of Reading Seed. “Qwest stepped up at the last minute to put on the show.”

More than 100 Reading Seed volunteers took part in assemblies throughout the week.

“Instead of hitting one classroom, we are trying to hit all the kids during the assembly at one time” Knott says.

Along with Qwest, such local and national businesses as Bookmans, Borders Books, Fair Wheel Bikes, Ajo Bikes and eegee’s donated items to make Love of Reading Week a memorable experience for the children.

Students who completed the Reading Seed program will be given a “Reading Champion Medal” in front of their classmates during the school assemblies. The top 20 students will receive bikes for their stellar performance in the program.

No student will go home empty handed: Donated books will be given to children who participate in the assemblies.

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