Story by Chris Graham
Mark Kearney wanted to do a good thing – highlighting the connection between literacy and good reading skills and crime prevention.
The police officer wouldn’t have guessed four years ago when he embarked on the effort that became Book ‘Em that he would be a part of the event himself as a published author.
“I grew up being a book lover. I love reading stories. And I used to think as a youngster about writing something, and I’d think, I can’t write a book. It’s just too much,” said Kearney, who is gearing up for the fourth annual Book ‘Em that is set for Saturday at Waynesboro High School.
Kearney will have copies of his first novel, Twisted Obsession, on hand with him at the event that kicks off at 9:30 a.m.
The book, “a thriller, a police story,” as Kearney describes it, has been a labor of love for Kearney, a crime-prevention specialist in the Waynesboro Police Department, for the past two years.
Getting kids reading earlier and more often has been a passion for a longer period.
“The earlier we can get someone reading, especially young people, the better chance they have to stay in school and be successful in school. And if they graduate from high school, the future is open to them. They can go to college, they can go into the military, they can get a job. It’s open to them. But if they have poor reading skills, and they struggle or end up dropping out of school, it could be a dismal future in front of them – because the job opportunities will dry up because it’s hard to get a job without a high-school diploma, and life could get tough for them,” Kearney said.
Sixty-five authors will participate in this year’s Book ‘Em – full disclosure: including yours truly, who has been involved with Book ‘Em from year one.
The program now operates year-round – with officers from the Waynesboro PD visiting local elementary schools to read to students with the idea in mind of “giving them the opportunity to see us in a positive light.”
Book ‘Em also coordinates the donations of thousands of books to middle- and high-school students in the Greater Augusta area annually.
Maybe one of the lucky recipients of the books will join Kearney in the ranks of published authors one day.
“When I was planning for Book ‘Em, and I started meeting different authors, it hit me one day. The people that I’m meeting that are writing the books, they’re regular people. They’re just real-life people. And if they can do it, well, maybe I can. So I decided to give it a try,” Kearney said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.