ST. MARYS - The Elk County Rural Reading Project is hosting a special movie night kickoff event Friday evening at South St. Marys Street Elementary School in an effort to collect 600 new books as part of the program's inaugural book drive event.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m. to the gym and auditorium. The entry fee is either a new book suitable for children ages birth to five or $2 per person. Clifford the Big Red Dog is scheduled to make a visit and the movie "Cat in the Hat" will begin at 6 p.m. The event is for children ages 12 and under and all children must be accompanied by an adult. Popcorn and drinks will be provided as a thank-you to supporters.
The project is part of Dickinson Center, Inc. Children's Prevention Services' Parents as Teachers (PAT) program.
"We are excited about the project and are looking forward to helping children in the community prepare for kindergarten," said Deanna Meyer, PAT educator and book drive organizer. "We thought the movie night would be fun and something for the kids to do at the end of the school year."
Books collected will travel with the Literacy Express van, which provides free books to children ages birth to five throughout Elk County. It has been in existence for two years and is also home to Clifford the Big Red Dog. Lynn Floravit, PAT educator and PAT Children's Center facilitator, acts as the Literacy Express caretaker by scheduling it for various events, as well as reading a book of choice to children and presenting them with books. She may be reached at 834-2602 or at email@example.com  for those interested in determining if an event fits the mission of the Literacy Express.
"Our goal is to enhance kindergarten readiness by promoting reading throughout Elk County in schools, daycares and other community events, as well as to children ages birth to five," said Meyer. "We feel literacy is important and every child deserves their own book."
According to Meyer, reading assists in improving language and communication skills; introduces youngsters to early concepts of letters, numbers, shapes and colors; helps form listening and memory skills; stimulates the imagination; and is an ideal form of bonding time between parent and child.
Last year, the Elk County Rural Reading Project collected 1,005 books. So far this year, they have collected 840 books.
Parents as Teachers is an international early childhood parent education and family support program designed to enhance child development through parent education. Those interested in donating to the Rural Reading Project, whether with books or a monetary contribution, should contact Dickinson Center, Inc. at 834-2602.