One Tiger ready to hit the streets with Obie Book Boxes – Massillon Independent

MASSILLON – One Tiger has a vision.
The grassroots organization wants to make sure that every child has the chance to succeed and that begins with providing them the right tools from birth. 
For more than a decade, the group has been working with Massillon City Schools, the Massillon Public Library and other organizations to ensure the city’s youngest learners are prepared to enter school while fostering a love of reading.
The next step is installing “libraries” at area churches so preschool and elementary-aged children can access books.
The first of the new Obie Book Boxes will be placed at RiverTree Massillon, 1600 Main Ave. W, next week.
One Tiger’s goal is to get 12 boxes into the community by next summer, President Thom Voshall said.
Besides RiverTree Massillon, a box will be placed outside of McB Cafe-Cup of Joy coffee shop at 255 Wabash Ave. S in Brewster and maintained by RiverTree Fairless. The church meets at Fairless High School.
The third box is heading to Mount Sinai United Holy Church in Akron.
“We care about kids no matter where they live,” Voshall said, adding that both churches have pastors who are from Massillon.
The group has plans to get a fourth box set up at Morning Star United Holy Church at 1128 Walnut Road SE before winter, with the remaining boxes being placed in the spring.
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One Tiger was the brainchild of Massillon alums and former Tiger football players Charlie Brown and Bob Clendenin. They started the group in April 2010. 
Its mission is to support young people and bring the community together by helping children become productive and caring citizens.
Research has found about 35% of children entering a public school are unprepared to read and fewer than 12 kids out of 100 will be able to catch up with remedial help.
To help, One Tiger wants to get books into kids’ hands so they can have a personal home library.
There is a direct correlation between the number of books in a home and a child’s success, Voshall said.
The Obie Book Boxes are increasing the group’s reach to provide kids with books to read and create their own library.
The boxes are made from old newspaper boxes, including some of the Massillon Independent’s unused boxes. 
The boxes are filled with books secured by One Tiger through a partnership with the Kids’ Book Bank in Cleveland.
Voshall said youngsters can keep the book for their home library or return it and get more. 
The churches where the boxes are located have agreed to maintain the boxes, he said. Voshall hopes they will do book drives at their houses of worship to continue to stock the boxes.
The newspaper boxes have been reimagined with the help of One Tiger board member Jean Morris, owner of Studer’s Signs.
Using a wrap — similar to those used on vehicles — the old newspaper box has a new look. On two sides is a rocket ship featuring Obie peering out the window while reading a book under the words “Liftoff to learning.”
The back of the box has Obie advertising the free books and featuring the organization’s motto “Ready to Read = Ready to Succeed.”
“We wanted to try to make it more fun,” said Morris, who created the box designs. “We looked at the color choice to make it appealing to kids.” 
Shelves will be added inside so each box will hold about 50 to 60 books, Voshall said. 
RiverTree Massillon Pastor Anthony Lombardi said he jumped on board when Voshall, a member of his church, came to him with the idea.
“I loved the idea,” Lombardi said. “Obviously as a church, we want to be for the community. We are not just exclusive to spiritual things. We want to edify people, encourage them and help with anything we can do.”
This week — Oct. 2-9 — has been designated Right To Read = Right to Succeed week by Mayor Kathy Catazaro Perry.
Throughout the week, One Tiger has several events planned, including distributing around 800 books to Massillon preschool and elementary students. On Wednesday, Tiger football players will read to the youngsters at the preschool and elementary schools.
“We want to get them fired up and see a football player reading so they know even football players read,” Voshall said. 
The group will also host its annual luncheon on Saturday and honor Massillon preschool teacher Kristi Muzi with the One Tiger Heritage Award for her dedication to students.
Muzi, a 1983 graduate of Washington High School, has served as the coordinator for the Massillon City Schools preschool program for 13 years and had served as the head coach for the Massillon Tiger cheerleaders and as an assistant coach for the Massillon girls’ track team. She has worked on the uniform crew and as an officer for the Massillon Tiger Swing Band Booster Club. 
She has taught dance and cheer at Starlight School of Dance for 13 years and also coaches the World Elite Idols, a special needs cheerleading team.
Muzi is involved in a myriad other organizations and events throughout the community, including the Massillon Woman’s Club and the mayor’s Kindness Campaign.
Since its inception, One Tiger has supported local literacy programs and given away more than 3,000 books to Massillon kids.
Through a partnership with the Massillon Public Library, One Tiger sponsors workshops for parents and caregivers of children from birth to 5 to help them engage their children and help them prepare for a lifetime of learning.
Every Child Ready to Read focuses on six practices that lead to skills necessary for reading and school success including singing, talking, reading, playing, writing and rhyming.
Sherie Brown, director of the Massillon library, said One Tiger has been a perfect partner for the library. 
“They want to see the children in Massillon be successful and what better way than to surround them with books,” she said. 
One Tiger has also been instrumental in getting hundreds of kids signed up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The free program sends kids from birth to 5 a new book each month. 
Voshall said there are 569 kids enrolled in the Imagination Library program but there are 1,764 kids eligible for the program. Applications to participate can be found on One Tiger’s website or on the library’s website.
“There are studies that show by the age of 5 a foundation is already set for learning and if somebody hasn’t developed reading skills by third grade it can be very hard for them to catch up,” Brown added. “We’re behind One Tiger in whatever they do.”
Reach Amy at 330-775-1135 or [email protected] 
On Twitter: @aknappINDE