Books Matter – The Whole List

National Reading month (March) is over for 2020, but really every month is reading month. I couldn’t be prouder of this fine selection of Wacoans and books that matter to them. Here’s the whole list! Thank you to all the interviewees and thank you to Professor Amber Adamson and the Baylor journalism students who conducted the interviews. Looking forward to doing it again next year! Read on! — ABT

Books Matter: Rachel Ledbetter

By Kathryn Herd

As a child, Rachel Ledbetter was entranced within the emerald green pages of “Goodnight Moon.” Through the scenes of small kittens, strewn gloves and a knitting rabbit, Ledbetter found a soothing calmness with the turning of each page.

During her early childhood, Ledbetter was able utilize her imagination and creativity by acting as the narrator for the books she pretended to read. Through a rollercoaster of intonation and created words, Ledbetter was allowed the freedom to dictate the world within the emerald pages of “Goodnight Moon.”

 “I could just do what I wanted per say and it was still reading in my own way, and that instilled in me a sense of enjoyment. So, I learned to love it, because there was a freedom in it,” Ledbetter said.

The ability for children to “read” whatever words they wish to read lets them grow confidently in their language acquisition and reach academic milestones, according to Ledbetter.

Ledbetter is the manager of the Reach Out and Read program for the Waco Family Health Center. Within the last three years, the program has administered 21,000 books to patients ranging from 6 months to 5 years old.

Her favorite books serve as both nostalgic reminders for the mothers and valuable teachings for the youth she serves. The books include “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, “Corduroy” by Don Freeman, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” by Mo Willems and “A Box Can Be Many Things” by Dana Rau.

According to Ledbetter, books are resourceful tools for teaching lessons and equipping children with school readiness. “Goodnight Moon” teaches routine and consistency. “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” teaches that every action has a consequence. “A Box Can Be Many Things” teaches the importance of creativity.

“Corduroy” emphasizes the beauty of one’s self-worth through the life of a stuffed teddy bear.

“It touches my ‘mama heart,’ because it teaches you to love things as they are,” Ledbetter said.

“Just because you’re missing a button doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. An imperfection doesn’t diminish you as a person.”

Never Stop Learning

By Kristi Pereira

When the staff from McLennan Community College’s Continuing Education Department left for Spring Break, none of us imagined the adjustments and decisions to which we would return due to COVID-19. I would venture to say most of our community can relate. As more news and facts were released about the virus, we made daily, sometimes hourly shifts with classes and trainings offered through Community Programs, Corporate Training, Health & Human Services, and the Highlander Ranch.

It would have been easy to default to frustration, but instead, like the rest of the faculty, staff, and administration, we chose to see this as an opportunity for growth and creativity. And while we have had to postpone and even cancel some classes, we have not halted our services to the community.

Community Programs continues to offer classes, but virtually, such as an online breadmaking class that was held this past weekend, Photoshop for Artistic Expression, Hand Lettering, and Pizza Making to name a few. Other instructors have come forward, and are in the process of developing and proposing online content for our community as well.  

Corporate Training has utilized an online format called Ed2Go as an alternative to face to face courses. They redirected any course that had an equivalent to Ed2Go, and created virtual courses where there was not. In fact, there are a number of courses and topic areas available on the Continuing Education Ed2Go page that anyone in the community can access. The page can be found at Furthermore, Health & Human Services has also transitioned both Nurse Aide and Medication Aide training to an online format and simulation lab training.

We want to commend all of you who have taken on the challenge of pivoting to virtual offerings for your students, clients, and customers. I think we’ve all learned a thing or two about technology and what it has to offer over the past few weeks. We hope you are able to find an opportunity during what might be a slower time to learn a new skill, or take advantage of some personal or professional development opportunities through McLennan Community College Continuing Education. In turn you will not only personally benefit, but you will be supporting local instructors, entrepreneurs, and business owners who provide Continuing Education courses for us. For those interested in participating in a Continuing Education class, you may register online at, or give us a call at 254-299-8888.

MCC Continuing Education remains committed to our personal mission to engage, enrich, and educate our community. Overall, we encourage you to do the same, and never stop learning.

Kristi Pereira is the Coordinator of Community Programs for McLennan Community College Continuing Education. She and her husband, Hermann and two children have called Waco home for the past 13 years. Kristi loves Waco, reading, being outdoors, and spending quality time with family and friends.

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 for more information.

Books Matter: Dillon Meek

March is National Reading Month, a whole month designated to encouraging Americans – and by extension Wacoans – to read! The Act Locally Waco blog is beating the drum for National Reading Month by hosting a blog series throughout the month of March, called “Books Matter.” Every day throughout March we will be sharing a post about a Waco resident and a book that matters to him/her.  Thank you to students from the Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media and professor Amber Adamson for help with this fun project.  To read all the blog posts so far, click here

“To quote my daughter’s favorite movie, Frozen 2, ‘Do the next right thing,’” Dillon Meek said.

Meek, a local lawyer and city council member, first read The Hiding Place in the 6th grade and then reread it about two years ago. 

“It’s a true story, which I think makes it all the more compelling, but it reads like a fiction-adventure book about a family who chooses to do the right thing in the midst of really negative consequences,” Meek said.

The Hiding Place is an autobiography written by Corrie Ten Boom about how her family hid Jews in their watch shop in Poland during the height of Nazi power. This dangerous endeavor saved the lives of countless Jews, but resulted in the arrest and ultimately, the imprisonment of Ten Boom’s whole family. Once in the concentration camp, Ten Boom and her family were able to continue their ministry by showing the love and kindness of Christ to those around them. 

 “They weren’t looking to be these great figures of social justice,” Meek said. “But the war and the Holocaust happened around them, and they just responded as they believed they were required to. I think they did so lovingly and with dignity to the people around them. Obviously unafraid of the consequences to themselves, and I think ultimately carrying love completely, which I think is profound too.”

Meek said he believes that this story of hope and doing the right thing can continue to inspire people today as it shows how everyday people can choose to have a positive impact on the world around them. This is also a story of sacrifice, and Meek said this story encourages the people of Waco to ask the question of how they can have a positive impact in their world where there might be injustice around them. 

“In Waco, for me specifically, there is generational poverty and I [think] there are solutions to resolving that,” Meek said. “My heart and my hope is that we can bring creative and innovative changes to our system to break generational poverty. That’s very different than responding to Nazis but it’s recognizing that there’s change, there’s positive impact in my world and so as an ordinary person, what can I do?”

COVID-19 Buzzwords: How physical distancing and sheltering in place can flatten the curve

By Glenn Robinson and Jim Morrison

We anticipate several new words will be added to the Oxford English Dictionary before the end of 2020, including “shelter in place” — the act of remaining safely indoors with the exception of essential activities. With the recent mandates from city and county leadership to follow this practice, many people are asking if it can really make a difference.

The answer to that question is “yes.”

By sheltering in place, we can all help slow the spread of COVID-19. While it may mean adjusting to a new, inconvenient, or uncomfortable way of life, these temporary changes can make a big difference in our community and our world.

In times of uncertainty, Texans rise to the challenge.

 You may be thinking, “I feel fine, so a quick beach vacation can’t hurt anyone. I’m not sick.” But we have now learned that people can spread this infection before they even know they’re sick. Regardless of your current health or your personal level of risk, the effectiveness of shelter in place hinges on each of us doing our part to stay home.

When you do need to leave your house for essential activities, it is important to practice “physical distancing” — our second buzzword, meaning to deliberately increase the physical space between you and others (at least six feet). This applies to all people, whether you are at-risk, symptomatic, or completely healthy.

It takes a strong community of Texans to heal Texas.

Physical distancing is not easy. You may feel disconnected or isolated from your family, friends, and loved ones. But, by physical distancing, we are actually coming together as a community in a powerful way. We are uniting under a shared goal: to keep our community healthy and strong.

Our healthcare system is working tirelessly each day to care for those in need and to prepare for an influx of patients. But we need your help. We are urging you, your friends, and your loved ones to help keep the healthy healthy by staying in, keeping a safe distance between others, and washing your hands often. By doing this, you can help us “flatten the curve” — our last buzzword, which means avoiding a huge increase of sick people at the same time and, instead, spreading out the number of new cases over a longer period of time. The goal of flattening the curve is to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed and allow them to better manage their resources.

Texans stand together, even while physically apart.

Thank you for helping us protect each other and our community. Please stay home, follow proper handwashing, and check out other guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These are challenging times we’re facing, but we are in it together!

Glenn Robinson, President, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest

Jim Morrison, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Hillcrest

New to Waco: Neighbors and Leaders

What does it feel like to be new to Waco?  What would a new person notice about our town?  What’s it like to try to find your place in our community?  Ferrell Foster is moving to Waco from Georgetown to become a part of the Prosper Waco team.  In this blog series he will share some of his experiences as a Waco newbie.  What will we see when we look at Waco through his fresh eyes?  Read along to find out!  To see all the posts in this series, click here: New to Waco. – ALW

By Ferrell Foster

Boxes and totes line the foyer. Bookshelves stand empty. One week before moving day and everything is chaotic in the Foster household. Those boxes, totes, and bookshelves do not know they will soon be traveling to the Heart of Texas — Waco.

Moving is always disruptive, and this one is happening during a pandemic. I wonder if our new neighbors will be glad to see us. I do not expect them to bring over cookies, but maybe we can wave from a safe distance.

Act Locally Waco is letting me share a little of what it’s like for one family to move to Waco. We move out of our Georgetown home on April 1 (we must be fools), sign the papers on April 2, and move into our Waco home on April 3. All things in the Foster house are pointing to those three days.

But there is a dark cloud hovering above us like a tornado-ripe storm — COVID-19. You keep your eyes on it; it would be dangerous to not do so. It’s swirling; the color is ominous; it threatens here and there. And you wonder if it’s going to bring a disaster.

We’ve been told that title and moving companies are providing essential services. They surely are essential to us, but we do not want to be too self-centered.

My biggest fear: the title company in Georgetown is open and we close on selling our current home but then get to Waco and we cannot close on our new one. Yikes! I hope my friends in Waco like my family and me enough to house us.

That’s just fear working in my head. Faith keeps us moving — no pun intended.

Since early February, I’ve been working in Waco and commuting the 70 miles along I-35. That is until we non-essentials needed to work from home.

I’ve been in and through Waco many times, but I have discovered so much more about the city the past few weeks. Like, the best small bookstore around — Fabled — and there is nothing more essential to making a town my home than a bookstore. I’ve been praying for them during this mess; they simply must survive.

My wife did most of the house hunting. I got called in for only the most promising possibilities. But even in those few visits the drives took me here and there in Waco. There is a lot more to this town than I-35 travelers or silo visitors ever discover.

I still recall some of the houses we visited. There’s the one with the beautiful, old live oak in the backyard. I so wanted to buy that house so I could climb that tree like the ones I did as a kid. I probably would have fallen to my death, so it may be good that we didn’t go for that one.

Then there was the really funky house that I loved because it was different and interesting. Only problem: The second-floor master bedroom looked over into a unkempt (and I’m being kind) backyard behind the house. We didn’t think a 20-feet-tall privacy fence would work.

And probably our favorite house sat behind a warehouse with giant, loud fans sucking the air out of the neighborhood. Put that house somewhere else, and it would have been ours. Every house search leaves you with at least one memory of what might have been.

I share this about house hunting to illustrate an important point about good communities — we are never alone. Trese and I moved from the country to Georgetown almost six years ago. We had to re-learn what it meant to be a good neighbor because in the country we could pretty much do as we pleased. Not so in town.

I suspect some people in this rooted yet emerging city would just as soon people like me stay away. They liked the “old” Waco. I suspect I would have liked the old Waco, as well. But there is no reason we cannot like the “new” Waco just as much.

Cities change by growing or declining; they do not simply remain the same. Most of us want to be part of where good things are happening, where we can have jobs and friends and sports and theater and parks and libraries and on and on.

A growing city can provide such a healthy environment for its residents and businesses, but it is also possible to have growth that is unbridled and destructive to the common good. What I have seen in my first weeks of work in Waco is that this city and county have the kind of leaders who want the best kind of growth and the best kind of environment for nurturing our lives, our families, and our friends.

COVID-19 will pass. It will forever change some of the ways we do things, but the leaders of this city and county have shown that they really do care about making Waco the best it can be, not just another city where the humanity of people gets lost in the mechanisms of government and commerce. It must be worked for; I hope to work with my new neighbors.

By the way, I’m not a Baylor alum, but I learned some time ago to Sic’em Bears.

Ferrell Foster is content specialist for care and communications at Prosper Waco. He and his wife, Trese, have five adult children and five grandchildren. He is a native Texan, having grown up in Dallas.

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 for more information.