Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

Four children were awarded personalized bookcases last week for successfully finishing an elementary school program through the Literacy Council of Alaska.

This annual event is always an exciting celebration. Over the years, 30 children from the Birch Park Housing Complex have received these bookcases. Each bookcase is handmade by David Klumb with Laughing Husky Enterprises, who donates his time for this good cause.

But there’s more. The shelves of those bookcases contain books, especially chosen for each child by program director Shauna Brees, and designed to begin their personal book collection.

The Bookcase For Every Child Project helps students develop a love of reading. It’s a national program, but in Fairbanks the project falls under the umbrella of the Birch Park After School program, in partnership with Alaska Housing Finance Corporation. The year-round program at the Birch Park apartment complex offers homework help, learning and family activities, field trips, food, books and more.

Fifth and sixth graders who complete the program and receive the bookcases are excited to share their achievement with friends and family at this special annual event. The Literacy Council helps kids see that reading can be fun. Reading now can help them succeed later.

This year, Mike Kolasa, executive director of the Literacy Council of Alaska in Fairbanks, began the celebration by reading one of his favorite poems by Shel Silverstein, “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too.”

Mayor Jim Matherly told students and families about his own love of reading, including some funny stories about reading the dictionary when he was a kid.

There was even a group reading of Roald Dahl’s timely quote, in which about 30 kids and 20 adults chimed in: “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, A lovely bookshelf on the wall.”

Studies show that 61% of children living in low-income situations have no books in their homes. According to the program website, www.bookcaseforeverychild.com, kids who can’t read are at great risk of dropping out of school and being illiterate. They enter school with a limited vocabulary and lack basic community skills that are vital to success and staying in school.

The Literacy Council of Alaska is changing that — one bookcase and one child at a time.

This year, it was especially satisfying to watch students set up book trades with their friends, so that they can share books from their personal bookcases.

A sharing table was also available, featuring several hundred free books donated to the Literacy Council. Kids helped themselves to those books.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.