Gloria Roberts didn’t just read “The Lion King” to pre-kindergarten students at Rock Hill’s Head Start center on Thursday; she also gave each of the 300-plus students a copy of the book itself.
Because for Roberts, and the Cheer for Children library she volunteers with, finding books and giving them away to children is all that matters.
“A child who can read is a child who has the world ahead of him,” Roberts said. “A child who can read is a child with limitless potential. A child who can read a book is ready for school.”
Roberts travels every weekend to yard sales and any other place that might have books in new or gently used condition. She explains to the sellers that she’s buying the books for children.
If the price gets knocked down, she accepts the discount. If the books are given to her, even better. If she can find a huge number of books, better still.
Roberts has spent countless hours, driven thousands of miles and used who knows how much of her own money buying the books, cleaning them if needed, and giving them away. She is the leading procurer of books for the Cheer for Children library, which is part of the charity’s commitment to area children.
Cheer for Children has collected and given away thousands of books over the past two decades.
“And the hope is to give away more,” said Winslow Schock, the Rock Hill chiropractor who started Cheer for Children with his wife, Glenda Schock. “Any church group, day care, nursery school that needs books, we will give them the books.
“The goal is to put a book in the hands of every child – and we mean it.”
Head Start is a federally funded program for children of low-income parents. The book donation is another example of how the community can help make Head Start successful and help ensure that all children are ready for kindergarten, said Kim Gray, site director for Rock Hill Head Start.
“Our goal is for every child to be prepared to excel when starting school,” Gray said. “It all starts with reading.”
Roberts was not a teacher before retirement. She worked in retail. For the past five years, the books she collected were given to the thousands of children who attended Cheer for Children’s annual holiday event.
“These kids can do anything they put their minds to,” Roberts said. “They all can succeed.”
The Lion King books even came with a CD inside, to help with read-along at home. On Thursday, Roberts read the whole book to the kids 3, 4 and 5, who followed along.
A tiny girl named Trinity Dickerson sat right in the front, keeping up as best she could. She held onto that book as if it were a road map, which it surely is of sorts.
Other kids followed along, too, many reading the words themselves.
And when it was over, they all clapped and thanked Roberts for the books.
Roberts thanked the kids for allowing her to read to them.
Then the kids lined up for one last thing. Each of them wanted a hug.
They all got one, too.