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Boys & Girls Club gets new library
Director: We're trying to improve attitudes toward reading
Rassie Littlejohn, left, 10, and Christian Funkhouser, 10, look at a book Thursday inside the library at the Joseph F. Walters Boys & Girls Club in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

On the wall is a painted mural of a dragon reading to children in a tree house.

Under the painting, a group of children play with Russian nesting dolls, carefully placing the smallest doll inside of the largest. Beside them a little girl uses the tip of her shoe to point to her state on a giant carpet map of the U.S.

These children are enjoying the new library that was dedicated Thursday afternoon at the Joseph F. Walters Boys & Girls Club, which is excited about its new addition.

"The kids are really excited and the number one thing that we're trying to do here is actually take small steps to improve their attitudes toward reading," said Mark Mendoza, unit director of the club.

The project took nearly six months to complete. The new library was made possible by United Way of Hall County, Lakeview Academy, J. Clean Nally Educational Fund and First United Methodist Church.

"They played a vital role in the grant we were awarded to create this library," Chief Professional Officer Steven Mickens said.

Most of the books in the library were donated and the club is happy to accept more donations of children's books.

Many of the children who attend the club did not learn English as their first language.

"The most important part of our club, for the population that we serve, is the language component," Mendoza said.

Many of the children at the club struggle to read in English.

"Sometimes they just need someone to be there for them and read to them so they can hear that language. That helps a lot with fluency," Mendoza said.

The library is a brightly colored space with several shelves filled with books and has a computer lab complete with Hooked on Phonics and other reading comprehension software.

"The library is really going to impact our kids to tap into books, media, resources that they've not been able to tap into," Mickens said.

Mendoza said they will have a lot of activities "to turn reluctant readers into recreational readers." Special activities will include a parents night, where parents can come in and read to the children, and readers theater, where children can act out a story in the book.

Aijha Ware, 6, said she loves the new library even though she can't read yet. She said she wants "to read easy books" so she can stay in the library.

Ten-year-old Enoch Johnson and his friends laugh as they finish fitting all of the nesting dolls together. They said they love being in the library.

"It's big, organized and off the chizzle," Enoch said.

Mickens said he hopes the children will enjoy the opportunity to increase their reading skills.

"Reading seems to be a lost art with our young kids. So, we want to create an environment in our clubs that will help kids enhance their reading development as well as give them an opportunity to explore and become innovative," Mickens said.