ALAN LUBY/ FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
West Palm Beach, Fla. — Dr. Ben Carson may be making waves on the campaign trail, but he and his wife are also getting rave reviews in schools all across America. Grove Park Elementary School and Westward Elementary School in Palm Beach County are the most recent schools to open up “Dr. Ben Carson Reading Rooms” at their schools.
Last Friday, Candy Carson, wife of the famed retired neurosurgeon and now presidential candidate, couldn’t contain her joy as she entered the reading room at Grove Park in Palm Beach Gardens. “Oh my God, this is amazing. This is so cool!” she said as she entered the highly decorated students’ reading room for the first time, having just cut the ceremonial ribbon for its grand opening. “This is fabulous!”
The Ben Carson Reading Project is an initiative of the Carson Scholars Fund, which was founded by Carson and his wife. The purpose of the project is to create a literacy enriched environment for children to develop their reading skills. The project is dedicated to promoting reading as a key to unlocking a child’s full potential. There are now 133 Ben Carson Reading Rooms in 17 states and the nation’s capitol.
In a videotaped message, Ben Carson told the Grove Park staff and students that his life changed when he discovered reading books. His mother, he said, made him turn off the TV and read everyday growing up. “We recognize the importance of a good education,” Carson said. “Today is a special day. Magical things happen when you open a book. This room was created for you! Congratulations on your new Ben Carson Reading Room,” he told the audience.
Eric Gross, principal of Grove Park, said the room was a year in the making. “It’s a dream come true and finally it’s come to fruition.
“There are currently over 1100 books in the beautifully decorated room” and Gross said “it’s for the sheer joy of reading. ”
There are no computers in the room and there will be no testing taking place in the room –just reading – for the fun of it. Teachers will be able to bring their classrooms, and Gross said, eventually he’d like for parents to come and bring their children, especially for those families who may not have books at home.
The room is adorned with stuffed animals, a waterfall, hammock, a boat and of course, a large picture of Ben Carson.
Gross said Grove Park was recommended as a school for one of the reading rooms. There are now four schools in Palm Beach County with Ben Carson Reading Rooms: Allamanda Elementary, Boca Raton Elementary, Westward Elementary and Grove Park. Gross said they happened to have an available room and the Carson Scholars Fund committee came to take a look and decided to move forward with the project.
Sande Constantine, of the Palm Beach County Chapter of the Carson Scholarship Fund, said the committee was pleased to open a room at the school. “It has been our pleasure to donate and help raise the funds for this reading room,” Constantine said.
Debbie Battles, Director of Elementary Education for the Palm Beach County School District, was also on hand for the opening. “If our children read a great book, good habits will be formed, their vocabulary will be strengthened, and of course there’s no better gift than a gift of a good book,” said Battles.
Candy Carson said she and her husband started this initiative because they want children to dream big dreams. “Kids are our future. Each child should be able to dream and develop those dreams through reading. If we can give each child something positive to think about, the better off the child will be. There are so many negatives out there. We need to replace those negatives with something positive,” she reiterated.
Candy doesn’t get to see how the Reading Rooms look until the grand opening. She was ecstatic about the Grove Park room and she and a group of students frolicked about the room, exploring every inch of it. She excitedly read to the students in the new room.
Dr. Ben Carson’s childhood doctor, Dr. Don Janower, was on hand for the grand opening. He has funded six Ben Carson Reading Rooms. “Obviously I support it,” he said.
Lynda Rothstein, the daughter of Academy Award winning composer, Richard Sherman was also on hand to present a unique and special gift for the reading room. Her father signed musical scores that compliment the theme for the reading rooms at Grove Park and Westward Elementary: It’s a Small World for Westward, and Jungle Book for Grove Park. The autographed gift will be placed on a wall in the room.
Candy Carson would not entertain questions about her husband’s bid for the presidency of the United States. Instead, she said the day was “all about the children.”