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Heads, pages turn at United Way Book Swap

June 14th, 2014 10:41 pm by Tony Casey

Heads, pages turn at United Way Book Swap

Washington County's United Way Book Swap gave area children the option of donating one of their older books or trading up to receive a new one. (Photos by Tony Casey/Johnson City Press)

When it comes to a literary figure, the experts might not put Lizzie McGuire and Tom Sawyer on an equal level, but at Saturday’s United Way of Washington County Book Swap, children were able to trade books as they desired.

The project, in its first year, gave children, ages pre-kindergarten through teenage years, a chance to give a book to the cause or trade up some of their old reading material for new stuff.

“And you don’t have to pay?,” one little girl asked her mother in the field next to the Boys and Girls Club of Johnson City/Washington County, finding out just how things were to work.

She and her peers were able to walk around the tables and swap books with any of the more than 2,300 books collected for the event.

Lester Lattany, president of United Way of Washington County, said the Book Swap came about through their focus on education in recent years and is a great way to bridge the months between school years, which can be difficult.

“(The kids) can get a chance to read during the summer,” Lattany said. “Because they can lose a lot of what they learn during the summertime if they’re not reading. This gives a chance for them to get some books, continue reading and continue stimulating their minds.”

This is something that’s harder for some than it is others. Peggy Cato and her daughter, Ruthie, from Johnson City, have ridden a family love of reading all the way to the Book Swap, something Cato says her daughter has been looking forward to for many weeks. Ruthie is making the transition from seventh into eighth grade, and though the weather is nice, she gets the most joy out of her days when she has a book in her hands. She’d recently ripped through “The Hunger Games” book series, then “Divergent” and now “The Fault in our Stars” and whatever she decided to pick up at the swap.

Dystopian is the style she likes and that’s a-okay with her mother, who is a history buff.

Cato accepts the “as long as she’s reading” rule with what Ruthie reads. She jokes how easy it is to buy for her daughter, saying nothing makes her happier than going to book stores for hours at a time, especially around the holidays.

Nick and Glen Greer, also were upgrading books, switching out a couple of “googly-eye” books for the treasure Nick, the almost-first grader was hoping to find.

“My Best Friend is Invisible,” is the title of the R.L Stine “Goosebumps” book that has held Nick’s attention lately, his dad said, picking up the habit from his older brother, who had piles of the books in the series. Greer said Nick is a bit young to read them all himself, but the two has gotten into a rhythm reading before bed. Like Cato, Greer is happy to have his son eager to read, regardless of the material.

“I wasn’t pushed to read, so I couldn’t read really well until college,” the elder Greer said.

The swap is helpful, at least to the Greers and Catos, in providing them a resource to switch out the books that they don’t read anymore for books they’ll aspire to read. The collection of books came in with the help of AT&T, Johnson City Federal Credit Union, State of Franklin Bank, the Johnson City Power Board and the Johnson City Press in having book drives to produce books for the swap.

For more information about the United Way of Washington County Tennessee, go to the organization’s website at

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