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Activity books teach about county government

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By Amber Coulter

Area students can color pictures of county officials as they learn how local government works.

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County leaders, such as City Clerk Kenny Tabb, County Attorney Jenny Oldham and Deputy Judge-Executive Jim Roberts spoke Thursday to children at Heartland Elementary School in Elizabethtown about their jobs.

Those are among the positions depicted in an activity guide put together by the Kentucky Association of Counties.

The book is meant to use fill-in-the-blanks, seek-and-finds, word scrambles and other methods to learn about local government.

Oldham told the students before they received their books she knew she wanted to be a lawyer after meeting one as a child.

“It’s a great book,” she said later. “You don’t get this opportunity in a textbook. It’s really helpful.”

Brian Roy, deputy executive director of the Kentucky Association of Counties, said the idea for the project came up last year during County Government Awareness Month. Association leaders wanted to offer county officials a way to teach children about how local government works and the kind of jobs that contribute to it.

Other organizations, such as the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the state legislature, put out educational activity books. That seemed like a good way to reach children, he said.

Association members worked with teachers to put the book together for third- and fourth-graders.

Those are the years students begin learning about government, Roy said.

“A lot of them are aware of government, but they have no idea that it plays a role at the local level,” he said. “They see the sheriff, but they have no idea that he’s an elected official. He’s elected by their moms and dads.”

The book’s illustrator, Mark Wayne Adams, also spoke to the students.

The Dawson Springs native said he told his best friend in third grade he wanted to be an artist. His friend said he would not be able to.

Adams wanted to give up art, but a teacher suggested he check out a book about Walt Disney.

Adams could relate to Disney’s farm upbringing and began to think again he could be an artist until his friend told Adams he couldn’t draw as well as Disney.

He was on the verge of giving up again when the same teacher told Adams he could check out a book that would teach him to draw Disney characters.

Adams practiced all weekend and brought a drawing of Mickey Mouse to school the next week. His friend was impressed, but said Adams would never make any money as an artist.

Dejected, Adams began to ball up the drawing. His friend stopped him, saying he’d pay 50 cents for the picture.

Adams made his first art sale and learned about the importance of surrounding himself with positive friends.

Fourth-grader Caidlin Beck said she was inspired by listening to the illustrator.

“I have art in my blood,” she said.

Caidlin liked hearing how Adams followed his dream, despite his friend’s criticism.

Fourth-grader Landon Whitley also was affected by Adams’ story and art.

“I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator when I grow up,” he said. “So, I really liked it, and I thought it was inspiring.”

Landon hadn’t yet seen the activity book scheduled to be distributed later, but he thought it would be good. He likes doing activities, coloring and drawing, so it seemed like a fun way to learn, he said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at 270-505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.