Act Locally Waco “Books Matter” Project to Promote Reading In Waco Community

Press ReleaseMarch is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! 

The Act Locally Waco blog and on-line newsletter are beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” The purpose of the blog series is to spark the urge to read by sharing stories about books that matter to Waco residents.  “We hope to share a story a day every day throughout National Reading Month,” says Act Locally Waco founder and blog editor, Ashley Bean Thornton.  “I can’t tell you how much I love this project!  I have edited 23 of the posts so far, and every single one of them is a beautiful tribute to reading.” 

Thornton worked with Amber Adamson from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media to create the blog series.  Journalism students from Professor Adamson’s classes interviewed a wide variety of Wacoans about books that have mattered to them. “The students did a fantastic job,” says Thornton.  “Some of the posts are quite moving.”

The list of interviewees ranges from Mayor Kyle Deaver, and County Commissioner Patricia Chisolm-Miller, to WISD Teacher of the Year Ashley Toscano, and legendary Baylor football coach, Grant Teaff, among many others.  From children’s books to self-published books, each post explores the interviewee’s personal story of why books matter.

“It was an effective way to pull together a list of powerful books read by influential people in our community,” Professor Amber Adamson, who helped coordinate the series, says. “How cool is it to know what’s on the mayor’s bookshelf, or to know what our local nonprofit leaders read to inspire them?”

“To take people around the community and say, ‘This person loves this book and you might love it too’ puts a really nice personal connection to a specific title,” Community Services Supervisor at the Waco-McLennan County Library, Jessica Emmett, says. “For a lot of people, especially in a smaller town, it’s a great way for them to explore the world.”

The blog posts will start being released on March 1 and will continue until the end of the month. Visit to read the posts, and visit Waco-McLennan County Library or Fabled Bookshop & Café to read the books.

Hidden Abuse : a reflection and book review

by Jennifer Alumbaugh, LMFT

I’ve had the honor of reading an advance copy of Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas, LCSW in exchange for my feedback and honest review.  Even before this book came out, I have been impressed with the integrity of Thomas’ reflections on psychological, emotional, and spiritual abuse from both the theological and the psychological standpoint.  As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a degree in Theology and a personal history in a number of church communities, it is not often I encounter material that resonates with such unapologetic and unfaltering truth.  Thomas’ Healing from Hidden Abuse is one such book.

recognizingHealing from Hidden Abuse is organized into several parts: introduction with background on the 2016 research project, “Examining Patterns of Psychological Abuse;” moving into the Basics of Psychological Abuse—a kind of 101 primer for anyone previously unfamiliar; the Six Stages of Recovery: Despair, Education, Awakening, Boundaries, Restoration, Maintenance; an address to family and friends of survivors; a resource section including a bibliography; and a collection of personal reflection and journal prompts to move the reader through their own process or to facilitate group process.

In both my personal healing process and my professional clinical work with clients, when I consider materials to use or recommend, I look for several things:

Does the material have substance?  I tend to shy away from materials that are too geared toward the beginner in self-awareness.  I want something that is accessible to both the novice and the seasoned professional.  I look for content that will inform, challenge, and inspire me.

Is the information clinically sound?  Is there research and data that backs up the claims the author is making?  Does the author have personal and/or professional experience in the field? —I want to be able to trust the author.  I also evaluate whether or not the content holds water when I consider my own research, education, training, and clinical experience.

Is it clinically substantial while at the same time accessible to laypeople who are not mental health professionals and who may not be as familiar with the language of the profession?  I want to use material that can connect with people who are engaging from a variety of professions, education levels, and experiences.

Is the language inclusive and intersectional?  Is there an over-all cultural competence across a variety of identities?  Especially in this time, I keep a look out for material that is gender and identity inclusive and retains minimal to no assumptions about identity and relationships.

Is there any bias in the content—skewed toward one experience over another—rather than encompassing the broad range of possible experiences?

most peopleI’m pleased to report that Thomas’ work meets or exceeds my criteria, for the most part.  While there is attention to dispelling the myths about abusers being only certain genders, there is a use of binary gender terms.

This book is deeply relevant and meaningful to anyone who has survived psychological and spiritual abuse from parents, pastors, partners, co-workers, friends, and others in their community.  Beyond my resounding recommendation of this book to anyone who has or is surviving “Hidden Abuse,” I recommend it to anyone who loves, supports, is friends with a survivor.  The education and insight available in this book is valuable to anyone striving to cultivate healthy, authentic, and loving relationships free from toxic dynamics.

In addition to being a mental health professional who supports others in their healing and recovery process, I have personally experienced psychological and spiritual abuse and continue to do the work of maintaining my recovery.  It is these experiences especially which have motivated and inspired me to enrich my education and training in this specific area in order to be able to serve clients in need of this particular healing work.  I center my own work as well as the process through which I guide my clients, in love and truth.  What comes under attack with psychological and spiritual abuse is the truth, and learning to trust one’s self, one’s own intuition, and even one’s own spiritual experience is a core component in the healing process.  Many survivors of psychological abuse have had the profoundly invalidating experience of not being believed when they reach out to others for help.  If you receive nothing else from this blog post, I hope it is this truth:

I believe you.  You matter.  Your experiences, your pain, your grief, is real.  There is a way out of despair.  You don’t have to suffer alone or in silence.  You are worthy of Love.  You deserve to live a thriving life, as your whole and authentic self.

small empoweringI will be using this text in my practice with clients individually, as a group facilitator, and as a professional development consultant providing trainings to various community agencies—police departments, domestic violence programs and shelters, and other mental and social service organizations.  If you have had or think you may have had an experience with psychological or spiritual abuse and would like some support in sorting through the recovery process, or if you are connected to an agency interested in a professional development training on psychological abuse, please contact me through the Enrichment Contact Us page.

Jennifer Alumbaugh-2Jennifer Alumbaugh, MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist providing clinical and professional development consultation services at Enrichment Training and Counseling Solutions. She has extensive experience working with adolescent and adult survivors of psychological and spiritual abuse, trauma (sexual violence, childhood trauma, interpersonal violence); and complex PTSD. These, along with grief and loss work are her areas of specialization.  Jennifer practiced as a mental health clinician throughout Los Angeles County working with children, youth, and their families from 2007-2012. In Central Texas, Jennifer has worked as a Site Coordinator with Communities in Schools of The Heart of Texas at G.W. Carver Middle School; as an independent consultant and professional development trainer; and conference speaker. In 2016 Jennifer created an implemented a therapeutic creative writing program, Brave Young Voices, at Klaras Center for Families and at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department correctional campus at Mart, TX.  She may be reached at: [email protected] or 254-405-2496.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these Aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.




Banned Book Week: Standing up for the Freedom to Read and Think

By James Karney

 “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”  – John Milton in Areopagitica, 1644

book burning

In the 1930’s farmers and businessmen in California’s San Joaquin Valley burned copies of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath as, “obscene in the extreme”. Local officials were motivated by fears that it would insight the migrant “Okies” to unionize. The ban remained in place until 1941.

Franklin Roosevelt in his 1941 State of Union message to Congress put forth the concept of the four essential human freedoms – Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear – that should be defended and protected. Roosevelt was preparing the country for the time when America and her sons would be called into the war which had been raging in Europe for the past 16 months.

Six years of world conflict and an estimated 70-85 million military and civilian deaths would free countless souls from Nazi and Japanese tyranny. But as history has shown, the four freedoms are still but a dream for many parts of the world. Roosevelt’s vision of, “a world founded upon four essential human freedoms” has yet to be achieved.

Challenges to freedom of speech still persist. The book burners of Nazi Germany are now the ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria, justifying their destruction of libraries and historical sites as cleansing the world of “inferior ideas,” just as the Nazis did. Justification for book banning, censorship or restriction of access to books is typically based upon moral, political, philosophical or religious grounds.

At its basis though, the banning of books is done out of fear:

  • Fear that society will be corrupted by the words or ideas of an author,
  • Fear that one’s religious beliefs are being blasphemed,
  • Fear that a country’s political or economic ideology cannot hold up to differing ideas,
  • Fear that ideas in a book may be inappropriate for children or teens.

It is our responsibility as citizens to uphold the values in our constitution and first among these are those freedoms found in the First Amendment – religion, speech, press, assembly and petition of grievances. The banning or censorship of books and the ideas contained therein should be an anathema to all those who believe in the principles upon which our country was founded.

banned books weekTo live in a free society is to live in a society where people of differing political, religious, cultural or social backgrounds live in community. There should be open discourse and the sharing of ideas without threat of retribution or criticism. No one is asking for acceptance or approval of the ideas or beliefs with which you do not agree, just the right to freely express them.

It is the responsibility of a parent to decide when and if a book is appropriate for his or her child. Limiting access to books in curriculum or school and public libraries impacts the freedom of others to raise their children under their own value and belief system. Most school districts have policies that allow parents to have their child read a different text when they feel a book in the curriculum is not appropriate for their child. This scenario took place last year in the Highland Park school district near Dallas. A small group of parents objected to seven books included in the English curriculum at the high school. The school board initially acquiesced to the request temporarily removing the books for review. Public outcry and the results of the review led to the books being reinstated.

This week celebrate your freedom, read a book that has been banned, censored or otherwise restricted.

classic banned books

children banned books* These are not all- inclusive lists of banned or challenged books, visit the website of the Office for Intellectual freedom of the American Library Association for more complete lists,

James KarneyThis Act Locally Waco blog post is by James Karney. James worked in a library beginning in his sophomore year of high school and after a more than thirty year library career recently retired as Director of the Waco-McLennan County Library.  He’s currently taking a sabbatical working on projects around the house, catching up on reading and doing research on Texas statesman Coke Stevenson.  He has been married to the super amazing and talented Anita Karney for 20 years and their son Jamie is a senior at Midway High School.

If you would like to write a post for the Act Locally Waco blog, please contact Ashley Thornton by email at [email protected] .




Read, Waco, Read!

By James Karney, Director of the Waco-McLennan County Library

The end of the school year is in sight. Summer is upon us: a time of lemonade, vacation trips, summer camps, and sleeping late. But for far too many children and teens, it’s also a time when they close up their books and do not read.

I’d like to challenge the people of Waco this summer to Read, Waco, Read!

  • Read for fun or read for information.
  • Read a book, read a magazine, read a newspaper. As long as the topic interests you, you’ll enjoy it.
  • Just as exercise keeps your body physically fit, reading keeps your mind mentally fit.
  • Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, caregivers – you have a special charge, read to be an example to the children in your life. If they see you reading, you may find them reading.

A number of academic studies over the past 35 years have found that children who participate in summer reading programs maintain their reading skills, need less reinstruction at the beginning of the school year and perform at a higher level on standardized tests compared to students who do not participate in summer reading programs.  In a recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, Frank Bruni lamented the increasing number of children and teenagers who never read for pleasure – currently 22% of 13 year-olds up from 8% of 13 year-olds just twenty years ago.

1934 certificateReading is the key skill that everyone needs to function in society. Reading gives you the ability to communicate, learn, and grow – regardless of your age. For children, it is most important for them to develop the skill and habit of regular reading that they will need for secondary school, post-secondary education and to become lifelong learners and readers.

For nearly 90 years the Waco library has offered a summer reading program for children and in 2014 the Waco-McLennan County Library will offer summer reading clubs for all ages.

  • Fizz Boom READ! for children
  • Spark a Reaction for teens and tweens
  • Literary Elements for adults.

spark a reactionThe Children’s and Teen/Tween clubs have a science theme that fits into the emphasis being placed on STEM education in schools. Many of the summer programs and activities planned for these age groups have a science or technology component. To learn more about our summer programs visit the library’s website at,

Sign-up for summer reading clubs begins at all libraries on Monday, June 2, and on Saturday, June 7 the Library will host a Family Fun Day from 1-4pm at the Central Library, 1717 Austin Ave. to kick-off our summer programs. Zooniversity will present a live animal program at 1:30pm and there will be fun for all ages including science experiment stations in the courtyard, teens constructing a 5 foot tall paper rollercoaster, snow cones, crafts and face painting.

fizz boom readDuring June and July, support from the Friends of the Library helps provide for weekly Summer Showcase programming programs featuring guest performers at each library:

  • Tuesday, East Waco at 9:30am and 10:30am
  • Wednesday, West Waco at 10:30am and 1:30pm
  • Thursday, Central at 10:30am and 1:30pm
  • Friday, South Waco at 10:30am and 1:30pm

Family Night programming allows children and parents to attend summer showcase programming in the evening:

  • Central Library – Tuesdays, June 17, 24 and July 1 at 7pm
  • West Waco Library – Thursdays, July 10, 17, 24 and 31 at 7pm

The Angel Paws Reading Buddies program returns for another summer and allows children to practice their reading skills by reading to a furry, four-legged friend. These specially trained animal therapy dogs are great listeners who provide encouragement to reluctant and struggling readers while boosting their self-esteem during a 20 minute reading/craft session.  Angel Paws will be at the Central Library on Monday evenings from 6:30-8pm and Wednesday mornings from 10:30am-12:30pm. Contact Vivian Rutherford at 254-750-5952 to schedule a 20 minute session.

For teens and tweens, programs will take place on Tuesday afternoons and Saturday afternoons and will include a variety of hands on science and craft programs. And zombies too!

This past week saw the passing of author and poet Maya Angelou. Of her many, many notable quotes, perhaps my favorite relating to libraries was one during a college commencement address while exhorting the graduates to read voraciously and to never stop learning she stated, “My encouragement to you is to go tomorrow to the library.“

This summer come to the library and – Read, Waco, Read!

James KarneyThis Act Locally Waco blog post is by James Karney. James has worked in a library since his sophomore year in high school and is the Director of the Waco-McLennan County Library.   He enjoys reading biographies, history, and spy/espionage novels. He has been married to the super amazing and talented Anita Karney for 20 years and their son Jamie will complete his sophomore year of high school on Friday – yikes!

If you would like to write a post for the Act Locally Waco blog, please contact Ashley Thornton by email at [email protected] .