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PAGE TURNERS: Kids enjoy Read Across America bookfest

South Boston News / March 05, 2018
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss – The Lorax.

This year’s Read Across America celebration at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Innovation Center on Saturday did it all – honored the birthday of Dr. Seuss, promoted literacy with storytelling, a reading room, and exposure to children’s book authors, and showcased the literary talent in our own backyard.

This is the fifth year for this event sponsored by the Halifax Education Association. Kimberly Tuck Rich, a teacher at South Boston Elementary School, has coordinated this event from its beginnings at the South Boston Library to the festival of reading it is today.

Kids loved reading with the two therapy dogs present, and Miss Sue, early literacy specialist with the Halifax County South Boston Public Library System had children and adults jumping and singing. Door prizes, cookies, goldfish crackers, and lemonade ensured no one fainted from hunger. Authors remained to sign books and talk with the children.

Started in 1998, National Education Association’s Read Across America is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that encourages every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss would have turned 108 on Friday, and he would surely have been proud to see that his works are still relevant as ever, resonating with children — and adults — of all ages. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904, the writer produced more than 60 children’s books before his death in 1991.

Veronica Everette, Mamie McCargo, Matt McCargo, Wayne Sutphin, and Phillip Hilliker, Sue Brooks, and Jessica Saunders represented this year’s literary talent.

Although kids and adults like loved hanging out with Dr. Seuss characters, what made the day special were the authors and poets who participated. Moreover, most of them live in Halifax or Mecklenburg County.

Veronica Everette

Everette moved to Buffalo Junction to care for her ailing mother and never left.

A graduate of Temple University with a BS degree in education and graduate studies in early childhood development, Everette has spent a number of years teaching and working with children. She has taught in the Philadelphia school system and has owned and operated a childcare center.

One day, she read a story about an eight-year-old who boy committed suicide from being bullied. “I sat on the edge of my bed and said ‘God what can I do?’”

From her sadness, came the inspiration for her first children’s book, Ardzie Meets Sully, The Bully. Her goal was to write a book to help her talk to children about bullying.

In addition to the book, Everett created a lesson plan that accompanies the book. “It’s not just enough to read the book, you have to implement the message if change is ever going to occur,” said Everette.

Her book and lesson plans have sparked a movement, “Just Be Nice.”

Everette hopes that her book will inspire someone to be nice, and that “If the concept of “just being nice” is adopted by enough people, there will not be any room left for bullying.

The book is now approved by the Halifax school district, and Everett is busy encouraging sponsorships from local civic groups to enable her to distribute a copy of her book to every elementary school student and teachers in Halifax.

The Halifax Education Association already made a commitment to buy a number of books for distribution; she has orders for an additional 80 books, and hopes that by the end of the month enough books will have been purchased to distribute them to every first and second grader in the county. She recently distributed about 100 books to Mecklenburg schools.

Wayne Sutphin

Sutphin is a native of South Boston and is sure he was destined to be a graphic artist because “I was always the student in the class that the teacher kept pestering to ‘pay attention’ because he spent so much time doodling on his papers.”

A fifth grade cartoon project served to steer Sutphin in the direction of being a comic book artist.

Sutphin earned a B.A. in psychology with a minor in studio art at the University of Virginia. He played football at school and toyed with the idea of playing professionally.

Practicality prevailed and Sutphin pursued a full-time career in school counseling. His “I have to feed the kids” job is working as a therapeutic clinician for the Madeline Center in Danville, an alternative education program for kids at risk. It is his job to help these kids get through their day.

Sutphin’s “other” full-time job is creating graphic novels and comic books. His first children’s book is entitled “Look Up.” The concept came from advice his father used to give him when he was young.

He remembers his dad saying to him, “When I was in Vietnam and things started getting tough, I would look up, because that is where hope was - where God was. There is nothing on the ground to see, so keep your head up so you can see the good things coming your way.”

After publishing two graphic novels in 2013, he wrote his second children’s book, Christmas in July, a story about keeping the Christmas spirit all year round.

Sutphin said he is a “home-town kind of guy,” and hopes to do offer motivational programs for kids in Halifax County in the future. He says he is very open to working in Halifax County.

Sutphin can be reached at

Matt McCargo

McCargo is a native of Halifax County and currently is the recreation director for the South Boston Recreation Department, a job he has held since 1986. His first job, however, was as a DJ for South Boston radio station WSBV 1560 in 1983. He is also serving as the director at the Washington Coleman Community Center.

Matt has written poetry for some time and you have probably seen his poems appear now and again in the newspaper.

Mamie McCargo

Mamie McCargo, sister of Matt McCargo, is also a poet. Apparently, it is in the genes as Matt and Mamie’s father was a songwriter.

Writing poetry since a teenager, Mamie prefers writing about relevant topics of the human condition.

Although not yet published, you can find some of her work on Occasionally Mamie reads her poetry at church events.

While Mamie finishes her Masters in Education, and obtaining credentials to teach secondary English, she is working as a paraprofessional at Halifax County High School.

There may be a published anthology of poetry in the future – called In Dapple Sunlight.

Phillip Hilliker

Hilliker is a free-lance illustrator who did not grow up in Halifax – but no one noticed or cared on Saturday as he free drew characters for the children.

Raised in Detroit, Hilliker now lives with his family in Richmond. Like Sutphin, he was a doodler in class for as long as he can remember.

Movies like Star Wars excited his creativity and he knew that science fiction and fantasy were his future in graphic arts.

He attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit – a four-year creative program – and has been a free-lance graphic artist for sixteen years. Clients come from all over the country.

Hilliker has a soft spot for children’s picture books. The touchstone book in his life that fed his passion for these books is “There is a Monster at the End of this Book” by Jon Stone and Michael Smollin (illustrator). It features Grover from Sesame Street and it still occupies of place of honor in Hilliker’s house.

Although he does do some illustration for children’s books written by others, he is more focused these days on writing and illustrating his own. He is currently working on a middle grade graphic novel as well as a picture book called “Road of a Square Chicken.”

You can often find him in Richmond area schools, explaining the art of illustrating and creative writing to enthralled students.

You can find information and examples of Hilliker’s work at Minotaurstudios.Net.

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Please note that this great event was begun by the South Boston Public Library, and has thrived and grown ever since, thanks to enthusiastic and vital leadership which cares about children, books, and reading. Please continue to fund the public libraries of Halifax County - a wiser investment in the future cannot be made.

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