Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/1115Bookdrive.html

Dobson High students rate literacy as top priority
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 15, 2003 12:00 AM
Mel MelÚndez

MESA - A group of Dobson High School students aims to curb the growing number of illiterate Arizonans by spearheading a book drive to benefit schools in need.

Nearly 800,000 adults in the state are marginally literate, which concerns Dobson seniors Taylor Morris and Annie Pennell. The two recently founded the Harry Potter Guild to hold community events focusing on reading to help raise literacy rates.

"If you can't read, you miss out on a lot, because you can't learn," said 16-year-old Morris, who shares club president duties with Pennell. "So it's vital that every child know how to read."

The 20-member group is hosting the "Reading is Magic" book drive that starts today and runs through Nov. 29. Drop-off points include Dobson High at 1501 W. Guadalupe Road, various Wells Fargo Bank branches and Newline Products Inc. at 2450 W. Broadway, which is offering free Harry Potter Guild T-shirts to those donating 10 or more tomes.

Books will go to schools that often lack adequate funding to purchase books, including Indian reservation schools, Morris said.

"That's one of the things that inspired us to do this," he said, "because all kids should have access to books in school."

Guild members, who named the club after the popular Harry Potter children's franchise, also mentor first- and second-grade Adams Elementary School students, reading to them every other week at lunch.

"They're great role models," said Adams principal Devon Isherwood. "The kids really look up to them. It's like they feel so honored that the high school kids are spending time with them."

The visits come at a critical juncture, because studies show that kids who don't know how to read by the third grade rarely catch up, Isherwood said.

"The younger kids get really excited about reading when they see how excited the older kids are about reading," she said. "It's a great little partnership."

Information: www.dobsonharrypotter guild.freeservers.com or (480) 730-9343.