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First Book - North Alabama, RBC Bank, Boeing help "Mayor Battle's Book Club" give a personal library of books to nearly 3,000 local students

HUNTSVILLE, AL (March 1, 2011) - Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, along with partners from First Book of North Alabama, RBC Bank and Boeing announced the formation "Mayor Battle's Book Club," a historic program that will give nearly 3000 students in seven schools across Huntsville a personal library of books between now and the end of the school year. The program officially kicks-off on Wednesday, March 2nd as part of national "Read Across America Day" (a kick-off event is being held on WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2nd at 10:00 at UNIVERSITY PLACE SCHOOL with 500 students in attendance).

"Mayor Battle's Book Club" is made possible by First Book of North Alabama, RBC Bank, Boeing and an anonymous donor. Mayor Battle and First Book-North Alabama are working to strengthen literacy in Huntsville in local elementary schools. Through the innovative program, nearly 3,000 Huntsville elementary students will receive books to take home and keep. The program is a historic first in the state of Alabama.

"We recognize the importance of early education to the future of our city, " said Mayor Tommy Battle. "Our communities' economic vitality depends on our success in providing high-quality education - and a crucial role that city leaders play is promoting school readiness among our elementary aged children."

Mayor Battle also praised Boeing, RBC Bank and First Book - North Alabama, for their partnership in making the program a reality.

"In these challenging budget times, collaboration and partnership with community-minded businesses and organizations like these is more important than ever," said Mayor Battle. "Thanks to their generosity, we can now work with our schools to improve childhood literacy across our city and impact nearly three thousands students citywide."

Mayor Battle's Book Club will be facilitated through First Book - North Alabama.

"Access to books is the greatest barrier to literacy for children," says Mecca Musick, Chair of First Book-North Alabama. "We are proud to be partners with Mayor Battle's Book Club and providing thousands of Huntsville children the opportunity to read and own their first books. Mayor Battle's innovative program will excite young readers and strengthen childhood literacy in our community."

The program's corporate sponsors, Boeing and RBC Bank, each praised the merits of the effort.

"Our future depends on our children - and early learning is the foundation for that future," said Tony Jones, Boeing vice president and Huntsville site executive. "Boeing is proud to join Mayor Battle's effort to ensure that the children of this community have the opportunity to prepare themselves - and are ready to meet - the challenges ahead of them."

"RBC is thrilled to support Mayor Battle's Book Club," said Ali Propst, RBC Bank's regional manager for North Alabama. "We recognize the importance of encouraging our students to read and providing them the tools needed to continue reading. We believe that supporting education and literacy is not only good for our students but also will strengthen our local community."

"Mayor Battle's Book Club" works by partnering with First Book - North Alabama (FBNA). FBNA joins with publishing companies and is able to provide high quality books at a cost of about $2 per book. The First Book Online Marketplace offers numerous titles to suit a wide range of ages and reading levels. After the March 2nd event featuring Dr. Seuss (or grade appropriate book), teachers in participating schools will then choose the remaining books that best suit their students' needs. Children will receive a new book every few weeks through the end of the school year.

March 2nd will begin a celebration of reading that will continue throughout the school year as students receive additional books every few weeks. By the end of the school year, thousands of Huntsville students will have their very own personal library.

The number of participating schools was determined by costs. Schools were selected based on a combination of factors, including: Title I status and AYP performance.

The seven participating elementary schools for this year are: Martin Luther King, Jr., Lakewood, University Place, West Mastin Lake, Highlands, Montview and McDonnell.

Both Mayor Battle and First Book - North Alabama have indicated they would like to see the program grow and expand to eventually reach all elementary schools in the future.

The ratio of books to children in middle-income neighborhoods is approximately 13 books per child. However, the ratio in low-income neighborhoods is only 1 book per 300 children. By providing children with books they can take home and keep, "Mayor Battle's Book Club" targets the only variable that correlates significantly with reading scores-the number of books in the home.

In addition to the books provided through "Mayor Battle's Book Club," the program will also included televised broadcasts of local officials and celebrities reading to classes at a regularly scheduled time on Huntsville 1, the City of Huntsville's government access channel, and reading and study tips to be broadcast throughout the year.

"This initiative is about helping our children to love reading," added Mayor Battle. "Over the long term, that is tremendously beneficial to our communities and society. The Book Club is a modest investment with a very big return, and we are proud to bring these groups together to help make it happen."


EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about Mayor Battle's Book Club is available online at www.BattleBookClub.com beginning on Wednesday, March 2nd at 8:00AM



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