By Collin Brooks
The smile and excitement on a child’s face never gets old to Murphey Johnson. But that is only part of the reason that he and the Northeast Tennessee Democrat Resource Center (NTDRC) have taken it upon themselves to give every second grader in Washington County a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax.”
The added bonus of getting young students to read close to Earth Day made the donation a no-brainer.
“Since the Lorax is such a good spokesperson for environmental concerns, and most people like the Lorax, so we thought it would be a good idea to try and get “The Lorax” into the hands of as many young people as possible,” said Johnson, who serves as the director of the Lorax Project. “We value public education and we value environmental stewardship and we would like to champion reading.”
A few members of the NTDRC were trying to think of a way to celebrate Earth Day in the community and given the Lorax’s deep love for the environment, they thought that would be a good way to share Earth Day with children.
While they are still making their way to many schools to distribute the book, the group delivered more than 50 books to three different second grade classes at Grandview Elementary on Monday afternoon. Seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces was still satisfying for Johnson.
“It’s a great feeling,” Johnson said of seeing the children excited. “It is great to see them get excited about reading and excited about getting a book. There is nothing like it and that is the best part of the whole deal.”
Project Lorax has a goal of giving out 1,293 books to all second graders in the Johnson City area. The hope was to get them all given by Earth Day on April 22, but the group won’t quite get them all delivered by then. The books cost $9,767.62, which was raised through over 50 private donations.
The largest donation came from William and Teri Block, as a way to remember their daughter Ashley Block, who died at the age of 25 in a bike accident. Block was born in Johnson City and moved when she was in seventh grade. But all through that time she was a dedicated environmentalist. Unbeknownst to Johnson and his group, the family even referred to their daughter as “the Lorax” because of her own zeal for protecting the Earth and all of its plant and animal inhabitants.
The group will continue to make the deliveries of the books to Washington County and Johnson City Schools, with the last delivery coming on May 12 to Jonesborough Elementary. The last delivery to Johnson City Schools will be at Towne Acres on April 21.