Most of the top of the adult-sized desk is covered by an old-fashioned chalk board filled with tally marks. There are actually more than 500 marks, each one representing a book donated to Certified Literate Community Program in honor of 8 year old Chloe Harrell.
The annual book donation project has been a part of the young girl’s life since before she can remember.
“On Chloe’s first birthday I was just overwhelmed at the amount of presents she got,” said her mother Diane Harrell. “On her second birthday, I asked ‘Mama Jama’ to come to the party to read to the kids. We also asked everyone who came to bring a book to donate to CLCP instead of a gift.”
“Mama Jama” is the reading alter ego of CLCP director Debbie Burdette.
That began an annual tradition of collecting books on her birthdays and it’s an idea that is just fine with Chloe, who will be in third grade at LaGrange Academy. She does get birthday gifts from her family, but her friends and other people who’ve heard about her project, also donate books to her.
Watching the numbers grow through the years is something that the whole family participates in. Last year she had 200 donated, so this year the family set a goal for 300 books. Chloe kept a tally of each book that was donated.
“They just kept coming in. We’ve had more than 500 donated,” Diane Harrell said.
Some of the books are new, some are “gently used.” The children’s books are separated into age-appropriate categories and passed out to children who participate in the summer reading programs in Troup County public housing. Adult books are also used by CLCP.
For Chloe, it was a celebration every day a new stack of books came in. She admitted she pulled a few of her favorites out and read them before putting them back in the pile.
“I like Junie B. Jones and Magic Tree House books. My favorite is Henry and Mudge,” she said.
Not only does CLCP benefit from the book donations, but it’s also teaching a great lesson, Diane Harrell said.
“I’m hoping it will teach Chloe to give back and be aware of other people,” she said. “I want her to have the giving spirit.”
Donated books in honor of Chloe Harrell can be dropped off at West Georgia Tech for CLCP director Debbie Burdette or by calling the Harrells at 706-882-2371.