Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 21, 2014

Reading with Kentucky’s first lady

Jane Beshear visits Greenup County library

GREENUP — Kentucky first lady Jane Beshear knows her audience.

When she sat down in a sunny nook at the Greenup County Public Library Friday to read to a group of preschoolers, she opened a book she’d brought with her from Frankfort.

When she launched into “The Squeaky Door,” by Margaret Read MacDonald, the children were clustered in a loose semicircle at her feet.

By the time she had turned a couple of pages they had inched forward and soon were all but sitting in her lap while she read, helping her with the sound effects and telling her about their pets at home.

“Their response to her was enough to show she has a rapport with children and with the literacy she is trying to promote,” said interim library director Sharon Haines.

Beshear, a former teacher and longtime literacy advocate, was in northeast Kentucky nearing the end of a week-long swing throughout the state to mark the 2014 Literacy Celebration, which focuses on improving literacy levels for Kentuckians.

During her time at the library she also surprised recently retired director Dorothy Griffith with a proclamation naming her a Kentucky colonel. Beshear later went to Argillite Elementary School in the Greenup County district and read to children there.

Beshear said she hopes the example she sets will lead to more people reading to their children or for themselves, and to more children going to the library for books. That will lead to higher literacy rates and a better future for the state, she said.

Promoting libraries is essential to improving literacy because not all families have books at home, and the ones that do can’t match the breadth and depth of library resources, Beshear said. Also, modern libraries provide computers, tax information, resources for accessing health insurance exchanges, and other services. “Our libraries have gone from being houses of books to being community centers,” she said.

Griffith’s colonelcy marks her more than 40 years at the helm of the Greenup library. Griffith was its first director and largely responsible for the petition drive that put the first library levy on the ballot.

“I don’t think there would be one if she hadn’t taken a leading role,” Haines said.

Griffith’s role was a visionary one for a library that has grown steadily through the years and includes branches in Flatwoods and South Shore, Haines said.

Griffith said she is “phasing out” her role in running the library and will remain as a consultant during the transition. “I’ve promised I’d stick around for a while,” she said.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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