Howard Coker, his family, and the entire firm have put the cause of literacy for both children and adults at the top of their list for several years. The Coker family, including members of the Peacock family (Howard’s wife Fran’s family) has worked in collaboration with Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton to bring two important programs for children to life. The first is the “Rally Readers” Program that commenced in 2004; it is designed to stimulate an interest in reading among area four year-olds. “Rally Readers” is a major success and is widely recognized as a model program. Our firm attorneys and staff continue to be very active in it, taking turns reading to and interacting on a regular basis with the children at our “adopted” school, The Little Fishers Child Development Center. At the end of 2006, a second program for children was launched, this one aimed at reaching newborns. Called Baby Rally, the program provides a book and CD of music for every baby born in Jacksonville. Howard’s daughter, Kelly Coker-Daniel, is an educator and fully committed to raising literacy levels in the Jacksonville community. She helped found this new program after the unexpected death last year of her mother, Fran Peacock Coker. Fran was a passionate advocate of literacy and authored the series of children’s books that have been read by the over 24,000 area four-year olds enrolled in the Rally Reader Program, to-date.
The firm’s commitment to the Rally Reader Program sponsored by Rally Jacksonville continues as we gear up to begin a new year of bi-monthly visits to the Little Fishers Child Development Center. Marking the end of our activities with the school this past year, Legal Administrators Sherry Rice and Carol Cenci participated in the school’s graduation ceremony in May. Carol Cenci gave a speech to the parents in attendance, explaining the importance of the Rally Reader Program. Carol comments: “I feel that we have been able to make an impact with some of the children at Little Fishers; they seem to see what fun and new ideas are held in the pages of books. We always try to connect games and projects to what we read – this really helps to bring the books to life for the children.”
A few weeks after the graduation, our firm hosted a 4th of July Celebration for the school, where, in addition to reading books related to our nation’s independence, we made hats, flags and streamers and then lead a parade for the children. Howard Coker, Chairman of the Board of the Jacksonville Zoo, also arranged for a free tour of the zoo – a day of fun and new sights and sounds for the students of the school.
Volunteering for the Rally Jacksonville literacy program as a “Rally Reader” organization is an important activity for our firm. Two teams, comprised of attorneys and staff, each make monthly visits to the Little Fishers Child Development Center. During our time there, we read stories to a group of approximately 40 children who range in age from 2-5 years. All of our team members find the experience very rewarding. Legal Administrator Carol Cenci explains: “The moment we walk in the room the children’s faces light up; they start hugging us and asking, ‘what are we doing today?’ They make it very clear that they have been waiting for us to arrive with eager anticipation.” Our time with the children at this school includes reading and then leading them in a project – usually a craft project tied to the book that was just read. During the holiday season, the Christmas-themed story was followed by refreshments and working with the children to make decorated paper Christmas trees.