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PHOTO BY LAUREN WESTER / Russellville Public Library director Ashley Cummins (left) and Missy Richey (right) present winner Bentley Welch with the donated football signed by coach Nick Saban.

Author, Big Al visit Russellville library

The scent of freshly-popped popcorn filled the Russellville Public Library Nov. 10 as children and adults anxiously awaited the arrival of author Missy Richey and Big Al, the University of Alabama mascot.

Library director Ashley Cummins introduced Richey, a former kindergarten teacher of West Elementary School in Russellville. Richey is now a second- and third-grade teacher at The Capitol School in Tuscaloosa. Those students helped Richey illustrate her book, “Big Al, Big Al, What Do You See?”

PHOTO BY LAUREN WESTER / Big Al loves the book Missy Richey and her second- and third-grade students wrote about him and Alabama football.

“The book actually began as a project for her students, who had to write their own stories about Big Al,” Cummins said.

Richey took those 26 students to the Paul W. Bryant Museum, where they read their stories aloud.

“It’s amazing how many kids are from the Tuscaloosa area and have never been to the museum,” Richey said.

Not long after that, a teacher from the social work department of the University of Alabama contacted Richey about creating a book from the stories.

“It had always been a dream of mine to have my kids create a book like “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr.,” Richey said. So, she took the time to have the kids learn how to create illustrations like the ones in the book.

Richey said she doesn’t get the chance to do a lot of events like the one at the library because of her teaching career, but she was excited to be back in Russellville for this opportunity.

Big Al made his entrance as the crowd finished up a big “Roll Tide Roll!” He sat on the floor for hugs, jokes and pictures with the children. Richey and Big Al took the time to sign copies of Richey’s book.

“This whole project has opened up so many doors and avenues to me, and I’m grateful for it,” Richey said.

She said there is also an Auburn version in the works, and she hopes to get a University of North Alabama one started.

At the end of the event, Cummins announced the winner of a football signed by coach Nick Saban: Bentley Welch.

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