- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Prince George’s County teacher is getting a head start on helping President-elect Barack Obama improve education.

The Rev. Eugene Williams Sr., of Clinton, has self-published “Words, Cross & Across: Word Searches on Barack Obama,” a book of word searches and puzzles based on the president-elect and his family.

Mr. Williams, 67, said he got the idea for the book last year when his 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade English students at Annapolis Road Academy, in Bladensburg, didn´t understand many of the words in Mr. Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I see it as a family-oriented book,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s a good way to bring families together and learn new words.”

Mr. Williams said he eschewed the traditional memorization approach to vocabulary by building on the suggestion of student Aaron Johnson, who sits in the back of the class.

“There’s always a student in the back,” he said.

Mr. Williams said he crafted the searches and charts with word meanings and usage components so students also could learn definitions.

Many of his words were pulled from the SAT prep class he taught, but not all the words are so complex.

Words such as “father,” “nice” and “bank” are included to balance out “elucidate,” “puissant,” and “gregarious” so that even younger children can learn from the book.

“We want parents to sit down with children as young as 2- or 3-years-old,” Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Williams said he spent months researching before writing the 156-page book, even watching the president-elect on the Web site YouTube, to help him make better associations with Mr. Obama’s word choices.

“I teach words by association,” Mr. Williams said.

During the first days of his English classes, he asks his students to choose words from literature to describe themselves, and they have to explain their selections to classmates.

“One best remembers words through association,” Mr. Williams said, adding that students will not forget the word “loquacious” when used to describe them.

Growing up in Orange, Va., he said, his parents reminded him of the importance of literacy and education. Their value of education instilled in him a love of words. He began by memorizing Webster’s Dictionary during his middle-school years. He said that passion continues to fuel his work and desire to see the same in his students.

“I want my students to become more and more eloquent,” said Mr. Williams, who has been teaching English over the course of 40 years.

He also has written two other vocabulary-based books. He hopes “Words” will be the first in a series of word-search books focusing on great orators. Two of his favorites,King and Abraham Lincoln, are in consideration for the series.

The proceeds from his most recent book will go to Academic Resources Unlimited Inc., a nonprofit group created by Mr. Williams that provides tutoring services for underprivileged students in the D.C. area.

Local bookstores, Amazon.com and his Web site, www.academicresourcesunlimited.org, carry the book. And Mr. Williams is waiting for a deal with Borders and Barnes & Nobles booksellers.

Mr. Williams also has taken a more “grass-roots” approach to sales. He is allowing residents to sell copies of “Words” for 30 percent to 40 percent commission. This not only gives the book publicity, but it also allows people looking for a little extra cash to take advantage of “Obamania.”

“People are buying everything about Barack Obama,” Mr. Williams said.

Upon release, he sent two copies of “Words” to the Obama campaign office in Chicago - one to Mr. Obama, another to the president-elect’s wife, Michelle.

Mr. Williams said he knew the Obamas would appreciate his book because they shared the same philosophy on education.

“With an educated populace, we have a better society,” Mr. Williams said.

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