We kicked off this year with a project that combined two of our library’s passions: kindness and reading. Michelle, the library assistant, had made a great design for a tote bag that used part of a pair of jeans and cute flannel fabrics. These bags could be used for many things, so we went on the hunt for an organization. Michelle had seen a community posting in the Berthoud newspaper and got in touch with the local arm of an organization called Parents as Teachers, whose mission is to “build strong communities, thriving families and children that are healthy, safe and ready to learn by matching parents and caregivers with trained professionals who make regular personal home visits during a child’s earliest years in life, from prenatal through kindergarten.” Our Michelle talked with Michelle White, Berthoud’s PAT coordinator, and they together decided that these totes would make wonderful book bags for their organization to provide families at home visits (to take to the library for books). It also happened, however, that Michelle couldn’t have contacted other Michelle at a better time.
Among their many activities, our local organization hosts an event a few times a year called a “roll and read.” Families being served by the nonprofit bring their children and their bikes, strollers and scooters to a location and “roll” to a number of stops to hear stories read aloud. This helps the parents and caregivers to learn more about how to read aloud to children in a way that engages them and offers the children a fun morning getting to hear stories. Naturally it seemed like a great idea to have their upcoming Roll and Read here at the high school, and give out the bags at the event! There was another lucky coincidence that propelled our project even further; a new member of our staff, Diane, had just come to us from teaching in a teen mom program and had lots of gently used children’s books she was trying to find a home for! Now we could give both books and bags!
I approached our FCCLA advisor Ms. Wharton and asked if her club members might want to do the read-alouds; they enthusiastically agreed and plans were underway. I also kept thinking about how it would be fun for the children to be able to choose a new book at the event as well; there has been a recent trend online in which teachers create Amazon wish lists and share them, hoping that community members and strangers alike will help #clearthelist and provide various things for their classrooms. I created a wish list of the most recommended read-aloud books for several age groups and threw it out to my friends and family to see if they could help. Of course they did, and their wonderful generosity meant that in addition to the many books Diane donated we also had 75 brand new books for children to choose from that day.
On a sunny Saturday many families being served by PAT came to BHS and four students did a wonderful job reading aloud. There was a lot of giggling. At the end of the four stories each child chose a book bag and two books. The rest of the books went with PAT that day to be given out at their home visits and continue to foster that love of reading and curiosity that is so important in a child’s life. The children really loved all the fun patterns on the bags and our students had a great time helping them to choose books to take home. 25 book bags were completed for this project by 14 students, many of whom are 9th graders new to our school and one exchange student who has really been enjoying being involved. As I said in my last post, I hope to make a bigger push this year to make sure students are aware of the space, reminded of it regularly, and motivated to use a bit of their day to help someone else.