'Thinking Big': Ben Carson Reading Room opens at Palm Beach Public School

Palm Beach town Councilman Lew Crampton, West Palm Mayor Keith James, Candy and Dr. Ben Carson, Palm Beach Mayor Danielle Moore and Councilman Ted Cooney attend the Oct. 6, Ben Carson Reading Room ribbon-cutting ceremony at Palm Beach Public elementary school.

With the snip of a ribbon, Palm Beach Public School debuted the county's 26th Ben Carson Reading Room Thursday.

A colorful, booked-filled space tucked inside the school's Cocoanut Row campus, the room provides a literacy-enriched environment for children to develop their reading skills, said Principal Christie Schwab.

During a presentation Thursday, Schwab discussed the importance of early childhood literacy, and thanked Harvey Oyer, Cody Crowell and Rob Frisbie and their families for co-sponsoring the school's Ben Carson Reading Room.

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She noted that more than 900 books have been donated to the room, which the school has named the "Enchanted Garden" for its tropical-themed décor.

The space, which previously held the school's information technology office, features shelves lined with books, colorful flowers and artwork, a patio table topped with a pink umbrella, and the sounds of chirping crickets.

“The administration, staff and students at Palm Beach Public are honored that the Harvey Oyer Family and Crowell and Frisbie family selected our school to have a Ben Carson Reading Room,” Schwab said. "The Enchanted Garden was created so our students can develop and nurture their love of reading."

The Ben Carson Reading Project, founded by retired pediatric neurosurgeon and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson and his wife, Candy, is an initiative of the Carson Scholars Fund. Started in 2000, the initiative provides funding and support to schools to build and maintain Ben Carson Reading Rooms.

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Each room is colorfully decorated and promotes Carson’s “Think Big” philosophy. To date, more than 250 reading rooms have been established in 23 states and Washington D.C., including 30 in Florida.

Six additional rooms are planned for schools in West Palm Beach, Oyer told guests during a presentation in the school's cafeteria.

Each room is locally funded, and Oyer, Crowell and Frisbie collaborated to sponsor the room at Palm Beach Public School.

“My family and I are proud to support the Ben Carson Reading Room at Palm Beach Public Elementary School," Oyer said. "We are committed to investing in the community where my great-great grandparents settled 150 years ago. Carson Reading Rooms create environments where our children become lifetime readers and learners so that they grow to be better stewards of our nation and planet."

During a presentation to students, staff, sponsors and elected officials, Carson discussed the importance of reading and how it transformed his life as a child.

Carson, who was raised in Detroit by a single mother who had a third-grade education, said he had little interest in reading as a child, but his mother insisted that he and his brother check out and read two books from the Detroit Public Library each week and submit written book reports to her.

"These reading rooms sprung from the fact that when I was a kid, I was a terrible student, a horrible student, until my mother made me start reading books," he said. "I went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class, and it completely changed the trajectory of my life.

"Many studies have shown that if you can get a child reading on grade level by grade 3, it changes the trajectory of their lives. They are much more likely to graduate from high school, and they are much more likely to go on and become a successful individual."

The first Ben Carson Reading Room in Palm Beach County opened at Allamanda Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens in 2014.

For more information, visit carsonscholars.org/reading-rooms/.

Jodie Wagner is a journalist at the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at jwagner@pbdailynews.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Palm Beach Public School debuts new Ben Carson Reading Room