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Group touts reading for kids with parent in jail
Isabelles Book Club gathering support
Isabelles Book Club, aims to get books into the hands of children who may not have an adult to do that for them those who have a parent in jail or prison. - photo by For the FCN

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Denise Ray hopes to instill the same love of reading in others that she found at a young age.

Her startup group, Isabelle’s Book Club, aims to get books into the hands of children who may not have an adult to do that for them — those who have a parent in jail or prison.

“Research shows a variety of educational problems occur in children who have been traumatized by the arrest, separation, incarceration and absence of a parent,” the club’s brochure states.

Ray noted that children may have little control over their situation, especially if placed in foster care.

“Giving a book to a child gives them an escape,” she said.

Also, proficiency in reading at an early age increases the likelihood of graduating from high school, which can lower the likelihood of a potential cycle of crime.

All those factors strengthen a community, she said.

“This is what I can do to help them and what I can do to give back to Forsyth,” she said of the club.

Ray recently began the groundwork to launch the organization in her home county, and she’s seeking more community volunteers and donations.

Aside from giving books to children, Isabelle’s Book Club plans to hold monthly gatherings, help kids get library cards and create other opportunities for them to read or be read to.

“My intent is to make reading fun,” Ray said, “not something you have to do.”

For Ray, that love or reading came from her aunt, Isabelle Cummins, who is the group’s namesake.

Cummins read to children, started a tradition of giving books as Christmas gifts and set an example of continuing education by obtaining two bachelor’s degrees later in life.

She was tickled with the idea of the book club named after her when Ray explained the idea.

“She said, ‘I never knew I had such an influence on all the kids in the family,’” Ray said. “’School is something I’ve never outgrown.’”

Ray is currently a student at University of North Georgia, pursuing a master’s degree in criminal justice.

She also has a journalism background and volunteers with the Forsyth County Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Isabelle’s Book Club brings her skills and passions into one effort.

The idea is gaining traction quickly as Ray discusses the programs with local businesses, educators and people involved in the criminal justice system.

The support so far has been “amazing,” she said, and Ray encourages anyone who’s interested in helping to contact the club.