Stephanie Navarro/The Hoya Kay Lauren Miller (COL ’06) reads to a young child at the GU Bookstore

Kay Lauren Miller (COL ’06) received the first U.S. Agency for International Development Bureau Citation for promoting literacy among children by sending 3,000 children’s books to a school in Armenia. USAID Assistant Adminstrator for Europe and Eurasia Dr. Kent R. Hill presented the citation to Miller on Oct. 28 in Washington, D.C.

Miller, who was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was eight, founded Reading Offers Amazing Awards, Inc. when she was in eighth grade. Since then, the organization has distributed over 65,000 books to children in both the U.S. and abroad.

“Our international projects have been to the Bahamas and Armenia; we are working with Korea and Uzbekistan. We have also set up libraries at day cares and health clinics where there might be children who cannot afford to go [to the public libraries],” iller said. “We have done book fairs – we set up a table of books and the children are allowed to choose three to five books which they can keep instead of returning them back to the shelter.”

This week is also Children’s Books Week at Georgetown, and iller was on hand for the 2002 unveiling of the Angel Tree on onday afternoon in the GU Bookstore. Theresa DeGioia, wife of University President John J. DeGioia and honorary chair of the book drive, opened the festivities.

Georgetown students, faculty and staff picked out angels from the tree and read the description of a child on the ornament. They then chose and purchased a book for the child described. A group of Hoya Kids was also present for the reading of Director of Housing Services Shirley Menendez’s popular children’s book, Allie, the Christmas Spider.

Miller was the first recipient of the USAID Bureau Citation. “They thought it was so impressive that someone of my age tried to do peace negotiations in foreign countries,” she said.

Miller said ROAR connects with the teachers of foreign countries through George Washington University Professor Dorothy Moore.

“Dr. Moore trains foreign students who are actually teaching at foreign countries [about the education system in U.S.] and her students come back and visit her. A lot of countries are trying to teach English, and so they are asking for a lot of English books,” Miller said.

The idea of founding ROAR came about while Miller was volunteering in a book fair and wanted to donate the remaining books to a homeless shelter, she said. She proposed her ideas to local Virginia shelters through letters, but only Shelter House in Falls Church, Va. responded.

“We had three of the resident children help us set up, and they were so excited about receiving the books and actually having someone care about them who does not work in the shelter,” iller said. “So after that I realized I really wanted to continue doing this.”

Eight of her friends from high school have been the core volunteers of ROAR, Miller said. “We tutored about 50 children in the Bahamas for two weeks with the new books that we sent down there,” she said.

ROAR is financed with awards Miller has received and donations secured from private individuals through letter-writing campaigns to officials and businesspeople. Because of ROAR’s status as a non-profit organization, donors can write the donations off and get a tax deduction.

“We shipped all the books [to the Bahamas] with Caribbean Tropical Shipping for free and the State Department sent the books to Armenia, so we have been lucky not having to pay for sending the books,” she said.

At first, however, Miller was afraid ROAR would not be able to fund the shipment to Armenia. “We wouldn’t be able to pay the shipping for 3,000 books. One of my mother’s patients told her to call Mr. Broch Bierman who works for the State Department. We called him and he came through with it,” she said.

According to the USAID Web site, “USAID has been the principal U.S. agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty and engaging in democratic reforms . furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world.”

Other Angel Trees and collection boxes will be on display on the Georgetown campuses until Dec. 18. One of the boxes is at the entrance of the New South Cafeteria. The book drive is sponsored by the Provost’s Office, the John Carroll Scholars, the President’s Office and the Georgetown University Bookstore.

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