Carol Davidson said she experienced a warm, reassuring feeling at the annual used book sale as she watched readers weave in and out of rows filled with books, trying to find the best ones to take home. People lined up at St. Martin Knights of Columbus Hall before the sale opening on its first two days - a sight that excited the avid reader.
Davidson volunteered at the annual used book sale, benefiting the Missouri River Regional Library and the Adult Basic Literacy Education (ABLE) program, of which she's been a part of for nearly 30 years. The two entities split the donations, and on average, each receives about $20,000. She called the book sale, ABLE's primary funding source, its "life blood."
Growing up in Wardsville, Davidson looked forward to when the bookmobile parked near her home, allowing her easy access to books. She's always had an interest in historical novels, particularly anything Civil War-related. Her mother encouraged reading, and it was common to find Davidson reading in a tree. In school, she was known as the girl who read every book in the library.
"I've always read books all my life, and to get to sort books is like how Forrest Gump says, "You never know what you're gonna get,'" she said. "And, I like books, I'm a visual learner, so it was just natural."
She earned a degree in literature from Stephens College and went on to work as an administrator in an orthopaedic clinic, retiring from there. In the mid-1980s, Davidson started volunteering with ABLE, acting as a board member and later transitioning into tutoring. She's tutored adults but currently assists students at Lewis and Clark Middle School.
Adults have their reading levels tested at ABLE, and children are tested in schools. From there, adults and students are paired with a tutor who aids them in reaching their literacy goals. Davidson has helped her students read in order to accomplish everyday tasks - filling out job applications, receiving a driver's license and understanding instruction manuals.
Being an ABLE volunteer, she said, keeps her on her toes.
"It's inspiring and it's challenging," Davidson said. "I like anything to do with reading."
She organizes the more than 250 ABLE volunteers working the book sale. Davidson said her husband, Danny, who passed away nearly six years ago, would jokingly warn others to steer clear of her if she was in need of volunteers.
"My husband used to say it was dangerous to know me because I'd put you to work," she said.
Davidson's decades of commitment to ABLE earned her the United Way of Central Missouri's Linda E. McAnany Award for volunteer of the year. She's remained an ABLE volunteer for so long in order to encourage reading, which she said promotes tolerance and understanding of one another.
"I truly believe reading is the key to our world being a little gentler, kinder, more knowledgeable," she said. "To me, reading is the answer to the woes of the world."
The book sale continues from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Books are on sale for 50 cents to $4 each.