Free books to encourage children
First Baptist Church and Jefferson County Health Center hope to offer encouragement to children dealing with injuries and illnesses through special books being written and published locally.
John D. Rathbun said the idea to offer a free book to every child entering Jefferson County Health Center came about after a woman undergoing cancer treatment asked him: “All the children I see at the hospital … if adults are afraid, how do they feel?”
“She asked if we could get books of encouragement to them,” said Rathbun.
After asking others and praying on the idea, Rathbun was able to go back to the woman and tell her they thought they could.
Two Be Not Afraid book series teams are overseeing the project, with four people on one team and six on the other.
“But the circles keep getting wider, and it’s not exclusive to our church; it’s just where the seed was dropped,” said Rathbun.
So far, the group has three prototype books, and is committed for two or three more.
Rathbun expects the first book, “Life on the Farm,” to be completed within a week or two.
The book features photos of real-life Jefferson County farms and retired Fairfield veterinarian Ray Woody. The book describes life on a farm and how Doc Woody prays for farmers, animals and crops.
The second book, which should be finished in August, is “Ozzie and his Brave Amen.” Ozzie is based on the Rathbun family’s former pet, a beagle, which really did climb on top of his doghouse and howl. The book has photos drawn by Rathbun’s daughter Heather and members of the church’s youth group.
The third book is “He has my whole world in His hands,” which features photos of area babies and comments from their perspective, such as a photo of a laughing baby with the caption “I try not to smile when I pray…!! But His love just fills me with the giggles!”
Plus plans are underway for a book called “My Dog,” with pictures of local children and their pets, and a book for middle-school-age children.
Each book is different. Each has a different theme and a different perspective. Some have photos; others have illustrations. The common thread is the books encourage children to be courageous and strong while letting them know they are loved and cared for.
“The reality is we don’t know how to write children’s books,” said Rathbun, but local publisher Rodney Charles of First World Publishing offered the advice: keep it simple, honest and children will fill in the gaps with their imaginations.
“A book will be offered to every child coming through the health center doors, but if a family isn’t comfortable with it, it isn’t pushed on them,” said Joneane Parker, Jefferson County Health Center’s vice president of Clinical Services.
Parker said about 600 children are seen each year at the health center.
“It’s great if even half of them take one of these home,” said Jefferson County Health Center Board of Trustees member Greg Hanshaw.
The book series teams decided to go bold and attempt to print 2,013 copies of the books. Even though Charles and First World Publishing is printing the books at cost, the teams still need to raise more than $20,000.
Cambridge Investment Research Inc. got the ball rolling with a $1,000 contribution toward printing costs and is matching contributions made by its employees.
The team members plan to be at First Baptist Church all day Friday while RAGBRAI riders are in town to share the story about the project and ask riders for support.
Rathbun said completed books won’t be ready for Friday, but RAGBRAI visitors will be able to watch for them on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites and make purchases there.
Rathbun said most RAGBRAI riders are drawn to the annual event because of the uniqueness of every little Iowa town, and the Be Not Afraid book series is just one more unique thing for Fairfield.
Anyone who would like to contribute to the book project can call the church office at 472-5205 to be put in contact with a team member.
Information also will be posted on the church’s website at www.fffbc.org.
Parker added the Jefferson County Health Center website, www.jeffersoncountyhealthcenter.org, will have a link to the church’s website.