Located on the west side of Detroit in the Boston-Edison area is Durfee Elementary/Middle School, the site for a new Ben Carson Reading Room. Durfee shares its academic campus with Central High School, reportedly making it the largest of its kind in Michigan. The sponsors of the room, Dr. Donald and Mrs. Barbara Janower attended both schools, but actually met, studied together, and fell in love in another DPS school, Mumford High! They have felt very fortunate to be able to give back while being married for “53 years, 10 months and 22 days!”
In the cozy setting of the beautiful wood-paneled library on the 3rd floor, reading room coordinator, Ms. Angelia Mahone, opened the program by introducing Principal Ricardo Martin.
After conveying a warm welcome, the principal exclaimed that he was beyond excited about the idea of a reading room. He acknowledged the hard work that the team had been doing since April. When Brenda Belcher, principal of the Dr. Benjamin Carson High School of Science & Medicine, informed him that this project might be a possibility, he was determined to follow through. The principal then continued with a snapshot of the history of the school. Edgar O. Durfee was elected to probate judge in 1877 and served in that position longer than any other judge in the history of Michigan – 50 years! After he died in 1927, the school was named after him, in honor of his extensive and dedicated service.
Candy Carson, co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund spoke on the importance of reading and how it exercises the brain. Reading not only opens new worlds, but helps you develop into the best person you can be. She said one perk of being a neurosurgeon’s wife is that you find out things that most would not know about the brain’s capacity. This small but special organ can process more than 2 million bytes of information each second! And you cannot overload your brain! She went on to explain the story of one of her husband’s patients who woke up from a comatose state. She studied so hard over the next year and was able to achieve the status of top student in her math class with only half a brain. She brought home the point that with diligent study, one can achieve just about anything!
In the video presentation, Dr. Carson spoke of how he appreciated having the opportunity and privilege of restoring people to health and high function. Having a personal understanding of how important a good education is, he shared the impetus for co-founding the Carson Scholars Fund with his wife, Candy. He then explained how they enjoy helping others in another way… to excel academically, and to develop their talents to help their fellow man. As he thanked the organizers, educators, and artists by name, the most endearing moment was when the children gave a loud cheer for their teacher when her name was called!
Continuing, he stated “Every great dream begins with a dreamer.” This reading room’s purpose is to fuel those dreamers’ dreams and inspire their imagination and by doing so, give them the motivation, and belief in themselves to fulfill those dreams. He ended with fervent thanks to his childhood doctor, Dr. Janower, for his commitment to help empower students to achieve their dreams.
Students of the 2nd and 3rd grades dressed in white Carson Scholars polo shirts then rose from their sitting positions on the floor by the windows to assemble in formation at the front end of the library. With a short countdown by one of the teachers, the students sprang into song, “I believe the children are our future…teach them well and let them lead the way! Show them all the beauty they possess inside”…. Their rhythmic precision was impressive, and they sang expressively without missing a single word! At the end, in a grand show of solidarity, each student took the hands of his neighbor and on the last note raised their joined hands into the air! Thank you to Mrs. Small, Lucas, Colvin, and Land for working with the young people to bring about such an inspiring performance!
The Durfee coordinator, Ms. Angelia Mahone then shared a story of a recent encounter with a military serviceman who had thanked her for educating children. This acknowledgment made her reflect on children as a legacy for our country. We need to celebrate the opportunity to provide children with this type of venue for motivated leisure reading. This special room will encourage and enable the children to develop themselves to the best of their capabilities. She ended with an introduction of Dr. Donald Janower’s son, Jeff, which brought him to the front of the room.
Mr. Jeff Janower graciously thanked all of his family’s efforts in bringing about the special haven for children. Addressing the children, he told them his father had been Dr. Carson’s physician when he was about their age. In addition, Dr. Carson’s mother was one who expected excellence,an opinion Dr. Janower shared and continues to believe to this day. This 5th Ben Carson Reading Room that the Janowers have sponsored demonstrates their commitment to helping others succeed in the same spirit as Dr. Carson’s mother exhibited. Mr. Janower also shared, “My father always taught me that education provides the keys that open the doors to opportunity. Similarly, Dr. Carson says in his book, Gifted Hands, “..the doors of the world are open to those who can read.” Jeff Janower goes on to say “my family believes strongly in the this adage and we feel privileged to be able to sponsor Ben Carson Reading Rooms so that our children of today can exercise their minds and open the doors of the world.”
“Children Learn What They Live”, a poem by Dorothy Nolte, was antiphonally presented by two 8th grade students, who did an excellent job of making the poetry come to life.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Ricardo Martin expressed his gratitude to all who made the reading room possible. Furthermore, he invited the assemblage to retire to the next floor to view and experience the magic of the new reading room.
The theme that reading opens new worlds is depicted in the décor of the room. A large rectangular rug, illustrating the continents and oceans, is centered on the floor of the room, where students can walk around and explore the world! On the chalkboard, everyone is greeted by hello in their language, from ‘konnichiwa’ in Japanese and ‘hola’ in Spanish, to ‘bonjour’ in French. One bulletin board displays photos of students reading books in various seating arrangements all artfully arranged around the centered poster of Dr. Carson, with the phrase “Reading is for everyone.” Other boards encourage the students to THINK BIG, in huge block letters with the word ‘think’ climbing up. In addition, another poster saying, “The person who has the most to do with your success is you,” is exhibited for inspiration as well.
Students lounging in the colorful orange and medium blue bean bag chairs were already traveling in their own worlds as the words of the pages came to life in their imaginations. The pretty sofas were completely populated with readers too! In keeping with the theme of exploring different worlds, the pale vanilla-colored sofa had throw pillows with African motifs, while another sofa was patterned in an Italian-esque tile design. In their eagerness to delve into their latest reading adventure, the lowest bookshelf was almost empty, as the students had removed their favorite choices of the day. Even the background of the room was carefully styled. White bookcases were attached to walls of the same color so that students would focus on their literary choices.
We wish to thank Dr. and Mrs. Donald Janower for sponsoring the reading room!
A special thanks also goes to Rhonda Walker and her team from local TV Channel 4, who interviewed children and dignitaries in the room for broadcast later that day.
We would also like to thank the following guests for showing their support by taking time out of their busy schedules to come: Mr. Jack Martin, Emergency Financial Manager for the Detroit Public School System and his team, Dr. Deborah Winston, Director of Literacy for DPS, and Mrs. Cerise Tounsel, counselor from Dr. Benjamin Carson High School for Science and Medicine.