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Kimble: Box up the books for a good cause
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Who remembers the little stuffed animal mouse tucked into a hole in the wall at the children's library?

I've heard those murals are still painted on some of the walls over at the building near the square where so many of my generation spent the summer checking out towering stacks of books and listening to library programs.

I can't remember a time when I wasn't ravenous for my next book.

Books I own have always been precious possessions; so much so that I've accumulated heavier boxes with each move.

But I have an admission: I've only read a single paperback in two and a half years.

I didn't suddenly quit reading. No, I swapped to e-books and read more than ever, yet I still can't part with all those paper books.

Whether you read e-books or paper books, I imagine you also have shelves overflowing with good books we haven't read in years but hate to lose.

The Newton County Youth Summit team has found a cause that should have us all ready to pack up those books one last time.

"Youth Summit is a leadership convention where small teams from each county choose an issue relevant to the county and think of ways they can help fix it," said team member Flannery Peay of Oxford. Peay is a tenth-grade student in home school.

The group is researching local statistics, reading the news and talking to people to identify issues important to the community.

At their meeting on Tuesday at Scoops, members reported in on what they'd learned about local literacy, graduation rates, school rankings, community support groups, teen pregnancy and other topics.

They also talked to someone about the status of local libraries at a previous meeting.

"We're all very interested in academics and staying ahead in school so it was kind of sad to us to see literacy rates dropped and libraries understaffed. [The library] is something very special to us," said Mary Lathem, a senior at Eastside High.

Will Holder, a tenth-grade home school student from Covington, talked about the budget crisis in the public library system as well as volunteer efforts being made in Porterdale with a library and small neighborhood book boxes.

"We're going to the Youth Summit to organize our project and come back to make our town a better place," said Holder.

Holder, Lathem and Peay are joined by junior Michelle Lewis of Eastside High and adult volunteer Leslie Lathem, a veterinarian at Honey Creek Veterinary Hospital.

"The Youth Summit encourages youth and adult partnerships to solve community problems. It also makes the team more aware of their community and of the community's problems. It creates an awareness," said Lathem.

The team travels to the two day Summit sponsored by the Georgia Legislature and coordinated by Georgia 4-H in September, but they are asking you begin helping their project today.

"Collect old books you are no longer using," said Mary Lathem. "Children's books of any kind, college textbooks, anything."

Books collected will be used for both the upcoming Newton County library book sale, as well as to distribute to children along the Christmas parade as part of Newton 4-H's annual project for The Learning Center.

The team is making bright blue cardboard collection boxes you can find locally, such as at the Newton County 4-H office and Honey Creek Veterinary Hospital. You can also donate directly at the library.

If you have a donation or would like to be a collection point, contact Leslie Lathem at
Secondly, the team is asking community members to volunteer by visiting the library or clicking "Friends of the Library" on the website.

Volunteers must be 14 years old and can donate any number of hours.

"Mary spent a lot of time at the library when she was little," said Leslie Lathem.

Peay said, "I have read more than half the books in the children's section."

Holder's younger siblings still check books out from the children's section, and he said that's where he finds one of his favorite series, too - the Hardy Boys.

And for all those who admitted to remembering that little mouse - imagine what an impact our generation could make, if we each donated just a few hours shelving books.

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010 or