• 64°

First Lady: ‘Books have power’

First Lady Dianne Bentley addresses the Rotary Club of Greenville Thursday at Beeland Park. Bentley shared about her love of reading and the importance of passing on the joy of reading to children. (Advocate Staff/Andy Brown)

Alabama First Lady Dianne Bentley has fond childhood memories of visiting the Montgomery Public Library with her grandmother.

Each Saturday she would get to choose three books. She’d take them home, read them and on the next Saturday swap them out for three more.

Those trips to the library helped foster a love of reading.

“I always enjoyed going there so much,” Bentley told the Rotary Club of Greenville on Thursday. “I loved looking around the library at all those wonderful stories.”

Bentley said that as a mother she tried to pass her love for reading on to her children and now she’s sharing that passion with her grandchildren.

“Reading to a child is the best gift you can give them,” she said.

Bentley said that reading is the next best thing to actually touching or experiencing something.

“Reading unlocks the imagination, and books allow children to explore places they might never have the chance to go see,” Bentley said.

As the state’s First Lady, Bentley has worked to increase awareness about the importance of reading, not only in school but also at home.

According to Bentley the state’s high school dropout rate is 44 percent, while the number of students who graduate from high school in Butler County is just 58 percent.

“Those are alarming statistics, but if we as a community will encourage young people to stay in school, these statistics can change,” she said.

Bentley feels a key component to changing those statistics is helping children develop a love for reading and learning.

“Reading should be a pastime that opens doors to the future,” she said. “The lessons learned from books can last a lifetime. Books have power.”