On Feb. 22, Miss University of Southern Mississippi Hannah Roberts hosted a tea party for princesses of all ages to collect donated books for her platform organization, Pages of Love.
Roberts, a senior chemistry major, founded Pages of Love in 2005 when, in sixth grade, she found herself with an excess of children’s books that she had outgrown.
“I was sick a lot as a kid, in and out of doctors’ offices all the time,” she said.
“I was also a big bookworm. Later, I decided to get rid of 50 or 60 of them, so I took them to my family practitioner’s office. After that, all of (my mother’s) teacher friends found out I was taking books, (and) the books just started coming in.”
Donations continued to pour into the new organization, which now has donated over 20,000 books to hospitals, learning centers and schools across the state of Mississippi.
“We’ve been to Blair E. Batson, St. Jude, Forrest General and the DuBard Center, which is here on campus,” Roberts said. “We take them to different places that are in need at the time.”
The event, titled Princesses for Pages, was a princess-themed tea party in which participants were invited to take pictures and get autographs with Roberts, make their own beauty queen sashes and listen to Miss USM read her favorite children’s book, “Fancy Nancy: Tea for Two.”
The admission to the event was a simple cost: a single new or used children’s book.
Zariah Chambers, age four, wore her favorite Elsa costume and happily partook of the afternoon’s festivities.She said she heard about the event just this morning. “My mom just talked to my grandma and then she said that we’re going to the princess tea party,” she said.
As for Hannah Roberts, she said that Miss USM is “like a princess.”
Her mother, Whitney Chambers of Hattiesburg, said that Zariah enjoyed reading and praised the event. “It’s a great opportunity for girls to come out and enjoy reading together,” she said.
Another participant, Addie Salter, age 10, said that she liked reading, particularly the American Girls series and thought that Miss USM was “really nice.”
Salter’s mother, Jennifer Salter of Brandon, said that she thought Princesses for Pages was a great event for the young girls.
“It just shows what they can be when they grow up, that they can be anything they want to be,” she said. “I think it’s a great experience for them.”
Roberts, before reading the group a story, addressed the girls and thanked them for their involvement with her organization.
“The books you donated will be cleaned up, stickers placed in them and then sent to hospitals for sick children to read or be taken to learning centers and given to children who do not have books,” she told them. “You have done a wonderful thing, and I thank you so much for helping me.”
Jennifer Payne, coordinator of special projects for the Office of University Communications, explained the office’s involvement with Roberts’ platform and how the princess theme of the party came to be.
“We were discussing her platform and how it’s coming up on the 10-year anniversary of Pages of Love, when Hannah told us that she is affectionately teased around the chemistry department as ‘The Chemistry Queen,’” Payne said. “She’s really interested in STEM education for girls.”
“Little girls are into the whole (‘Frozen’) craze and the whole princess thing,” Roberts said.
“Also, Miss Mississippi has a Magnolia Prince and Princess program. Each contestant gets to choose three little boys or little girls this year that will be with me in Vicksburg and spend the whole week there. We decided to make it an event so that more little girls could be involved.”
The event ran with some help from Roberts’ Kappa Delta sorority sisters and raised over 150 children’s books for Pages of Love.
Roberts explained that while she may not be directly teaching children how to read, Pages of Love was combating illiteracy in Mississippi by placing books in the hands of those who need them most.
“There’s a very short window of time in which a child is predisposed to learning how to read,” she said.
“It’s very hard to learn how to read when (a child) doesn’t have books. You think of a book as such a small gift and not something that can make a huge impact, but one or two books can turn into 20,000 books.“
If you are interested in donating children’s books to Pages of Love, visit the Facebook page, the Twitter account or email email@example.com.