PINEWOOD - School administrators and donors hope a new, special library at Manchester Elementary School will help youth in this rural community of Sumter County think and dream big.
On Tuesday, local leaders and school officials held a grand …
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On Tuesday, local leaders and school officials held a grand opening celebration for the school's new Ben Carson Reading Room.
The library is named after the renowned neurosurgeon who came from humble beginnings, but through the power of reading books he grew to learn and achieve in school, according to Sumter School District Assistant Superintendent Brenda Hafner.
"All of a sudden, he realized it did not matter where someone came from or how much money their family had," Hafner said of Carson's story, "as long as you have books. If you have books, you have knowledge, and with that knowledge you have power."
Carson's ultimate success started with the big first step of developing a love for reading, and leaders hope the new library can put the kids from the high-poverty Title I school on the same path to overcoming challenges.
Unlike many school libraries of today, Ben Carson Reading Rooms don't have fancy technology gadgets and Chromebooks but simply promote leisure reading as a key to unlocking a child's full potential, Manchester Elementary Instructional Coach Jennifer Geddings said.
The reading room was made possible through a donation from Greg Thompson, president and CEO of Thompson Construction Group, and is a former small classroom at the school that was renovated with new carpet and furniture, fresh paint and more than $7,000 worth of books.
Books in the Carson reading room are not organized by genre, reading level or any other special labels. Easy and hard books can be found on the same shelf, Geddings said, in a free-pick format for students.
Danisha Griffin's first-grade class was one of the first groups to visit the new library Tuesday.
First-graders Donovan Talbott, Christopher Hardy and Kyler Kee gathered on a small couch, reading their selections.
Each described the books as either "really good" or "cool."
Donovan and Christopher were fascinated by LEGO books with animated models, reading about science, history and various animals.
Kyler read and enjoyed "The Class from the Black Lagoon."
"I like that it has monsters in it, and they are going to class," Kyler said.
Manchester's is the second Ben Carson Reading Room that Thompson has provided for the district. The first was in 2016 at R.E. Davis Elementary School, another high-poverty school in a different rural outlying area of the county.
Thompson was unable to attend Tuesday because of out-of-town business, but Janice Poplin of the Thompson leadership team was on hand.
"Greg believes in giving back to the community and is invested in public education for the future of Sumter," Poplin said. "He always talks about what are our natural resources in Sumter? We don't have the beach. We don't have the mountains, but what we've got is our citizens that we can develop and make great to improve economic development and quality of life for all of us."
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