SUSSEX COUNTY-Each month, Project Self-Sufficiency's Even Start Family Literacy Program offers a Celebrity Reader Series at the Little Sprouts Day Care Center in Newton. Recent celebrity readers were Raymond Frey and John Kirkowski. A pirate's life for Professor Frey Frey, noted author, historian and associate professor of history at Centenary College, was the guest of honor for the pirate-themed program in July. "Ray has been a wonderful supporter of Project Self-Sufficiency for many years," said executive director Deborah Berry-Toon. "His thirst for learning and sense of adventure is endless, so we knew he'd make the perfect pirate captain for this event." Armed with a talking parrot and a skull and crossbones bandana, the professor easily captured the imaginations of his "crew." The children, wearing bandanas and eye-patches, listened intently as Frey read "How I Became a Pirate" by Melinda Long and "Pirate Jam" by Jo Brown. Following these stories, each child received a goodie bag filled with booty, fit for any pirate, including a personal copy of the book "Cookie Monster's Kitchen." "One of my great loves is books," said Frey. "It's a love for a lifetime, and sharing that with the kids is special." "Dr. K." makes story time fun Kirkowski, beloved Sparta dentist and immediate past governor of the New Jersey District of Kiwanis International, was enthusiastic about being the August celebrity reader. His wife, Edwina, had already made her own celebrity reader appearance, and had conducted multiple book drives for the agency during her reign as the New Jersey District Kiwanis First Lady. In fact, the Kirkowski's arrived for the reading event with a huge book donation. "John and Edwina are a great team," said executive director Deborah Berry-Toon. "They are such wonderful, generous, community-minded people, and their shared commitment to advancing the cause of literacy is tremendous." Kirkowski, or "Dr. K." as his dental patients sometimes call him, quickly captured the children's attention by reading "The Counting Carnival" by Beth Terril and "Circus" by Lois Ehlert. These stories were the perfect way to set the mood for Little Sprouts' upcoming trip to the New Jersey State Fair. Kirkowski's energetic and animated style had the children counting along with the story, raising their hands to ask questions, and spontaneously bursting into song. In responding to the question, "What do you love to do," Kirkowski didn't hesitate in answering: read, read, and read. "I think the Celebrity Reader Program is great," said Kirkowski. "Just letting kids know that reading is so important will make such a difference in their future. Reading is the greatest gift." Series promotes literacy The Celebrity Reader Series invites local celebrities and community role models to share their love of reading with children enrolled at Little Sprouts Day Care Center and families participating in Even Start, a family literacy program of the New Jersey Department of Education. The Even Start program is offered in conjunction with Sussex County Community College and Hopatcong Borough schools, and includes six free components: General Educational Development (G.E.D.), Adult Basic Education (A.B.E.), and English as a Second Language (E.S.L.) classes; parenting classes; computer skills training; early childhood education; parent and child interactive activities; and family field trips. Project Self-Sufficiency is a nonprofit social service agency serving single parents, teen parents and displaced homemakers with a holistic menu of programming, designed to enable families to achieve economic and personal self-sufficiency. Services include computer training, careering, job training and placement, legal assistance, individual and group counseling, comprehensive case management and much more. To learn more about the Celebrity Reader Series, or other programs offered by Project Self-Sufficiency, call 973-383-5129.