A Castle North Middle School service club aims to promote literacy in youth by bringing a famous and free library program to Warrick County.

The Castle North Middle School generationOn service club is hoping to encourage reading in young children by bringing the Dolly Parton Imagine Library to Warrick County by this Christmas -- but they need $20,000 to complete their goal.

If they reach their goal, any registered child in Warrick County from birth to age five, starting with those born in 2017, will receive a free book every month.

"So the goal would be all children in kindergarten five years from now would have read at least 60 books," said Darlene Short, Castle North Middle School teacher and one of the generationOn Club advisors.

Short said they have raised $3,000 but still need $17,000 more to reach their goal of putting a free, high quality book in a Warrick County child's hand each month.

Short said currently, there are 30 kids in the service club, but there have been years where they have had as many as 100.

"Just whoever can come and whoever can get involved," Short said. "We're just trying to empower kids to make a difference in their world."

Short said the students decided to write a book of their own in order to promote the Imagination Library. Around 25 club members met at different times to piece together a book they wrote and drew themselves called "Not Just A Story."

"These are 25 kids who don't know each other very well and don't see each other very much and somehow we worked together to create a book that made sense," Short said. "Each student or pairs of students picked a setting and then picked a lesson that might have been learned in that particular story."

The club self-published the book and is selling them for $25, and as an incentive for people to sponsor a child for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Club members participated in several service projects throughout the 2016-17 school year, including reorganizing the school's disorganized clothes closet -- a place where kids can come and get clothes they may need for whatever reason -- Wreaths Across America, a national service day where they laid wreaths on the graves of veterans and Free Kids Day, where they volunteered their time by face painting other kids.

Short said the club has no requirement about how many hours of service the students must complete and what kinds of service projects they have to do.

"The club promotes students to do things on their own," said Castle North Middle School teacher and club advisor Ginger Schaperjohn said. "So we have all sorts of people who help with the Humane Society, Ronald McDonald House, church groups. So it's not central to just Castle."

Short said the service hours these students obtain in middle school by being a part of the club could help them in their future academic careers.

"And what's good about generationOn is that once you hit eighth grade, you can start logging everything they do individually," she said. "Because that way, when it's time to start filling out college applications, they can go back and say those are the hours I completed, this is what I did."

see literacy/page B4

Natalie Watts, an active generationOn member, said there are many reasons why she joined generationOn, but the main reason was to help others.

"GenerationOn has taught me how to become a better person and to be a lot nicer to others," Watts said. "The main thing I learned from the projects is 'treat others how you want to be treated.' I love this club and I will never quit. This club is outstanding and I love what we do."

Donations to the Castle North Middle School generationOn Dolly Parton Imagination Library can be made at bit.ly/imaginationlibrarywarrick.

Marisa Patwa is a graduate of the University of Evansville with a degree in journalism and minor in political science.

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