Toes in the Sand, Nose in a Book!

By Betty Trummel

It might be back to school time for some of you out there, but September here on Cape Cod is the best time to head to the beach!  There’s still time for long walks, swimming in the waves (the water has finally warmed up), building sandcastles, and most especially reading lots of great books!

While I often bring books from home, I also check out the Bank Street Little Free Library to see what’s been left behind by tourists or locals.  Or, as it happened the other day, a woman lounging in her beach chair near me commented that she saw me intently reading my most recent selection, and offered to trade books with me when I was finished.  We had a great discussion about what we were reading, and it was fun to swap books! We now call ourselves “beach book buddies” and have been not only passing books between us, but with other people at our favorite beach.

I see so many people reading while at the beach…and I’m always scoping out the titles of their books to see what’s popular and get ideas for future reading.  Kids often have books with them as well…and it’s a great break from swimming or digging in the sand. 

Whatever you’ve done this summer…I hope it included some time for reading!  This month you’ll find me at Bank Street Beach with my toes in the sand, and my nose in a book!

A to Z’s AmaZing Race

Get your traveling team together and please join us for our inaugural road rally and FUNdraiser.

What to Expect:

The road rally will start at Hickory Hall where you will be given your first clue. From there, you and your team (2-8 people) will travel to a different location in Crystal Lake to receive your next clue to figure out.

The quicker you can solve clues and travel to specific locations – the better chances you will have to win prizes! There will also be a few fun activities/roadblocks for your team to complete at some stops along the way.

What You Need:

Bring your sense of humor and love of Crystal Lake to finish the race and win fun prizes!

You can purchase tickets on our website for $50 per person or score a deal with $175 for a 4-pack. We will add your name to the list of road rally racers! 

You do not want to miss A to Z’s AmaZing Race!

This year we are trying something new for our annual FUNdraiser and hope you will join us on Saturday, August 27th from 6:30-10:00 PM for A to Z’s AmaZing Race road rally. Yep, this fundraiser is going to be one to remember with lots of laughs while benefitting a great cause!

The road rally will kick off at Hickory Hall where you will be given your first clue. From there, you and your team (2-8 people) will travel to a different location in Crystal Lake to receive your next clue to figure out and then travel on to another location in the race. The quicker you can solve clues and travel to specific locations – the better chances you will have to win prizes! There will also be a few fun activities/roadblocks for your team to complete at some stops along the way. Head to our website for tickets and ask a friend (or two) to join your team. We will add your name to the list of road rally racers.

Special Thanks: A to Z Literacy Movement is funded by individual donors like you and we are grateful for your continued support as we celebrate 13 years of promoting the love of reading by getting books into the hands of children.

Save the Date for A to Z’s AmaZing Race

Get your traveling team together and join us for our inaugural road rally and fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 27th from 6:30 – 10:00. Yes, we decided to switch things up a bit after a two-year COVID delay and create a fun race around Crystal Lake paying homage to our city and some iconic locations. 

We invite you to start your engines and embark on a road rally with clues to solve, trivia to figure out, and roadblocks to get around. The AmaZing Race will be held at Hickory Hall where racers will be given their first clue to begin their adventure. Teams can range in size from two to six people and tickets will go on sale on August 1st via our website.

As always, all money donated will directly help us to forward our mission and meet our goals to strengthen and improve the literacy lives of students locally and globally.

Where I Come From

Where I come from, it’s a unique opportunity for one to make it to the university level because of how hard and expensive it is to get there. I’m one of the very few people to make it to the university in my family and my community. In that regard, many of my family and friends ask me about my experiences and stories at school. This gives me the sense that I represent them there. I love how during my study break and exam period, my mom and friends call to check and see if I’m awake and studying or to wake me up or tell me to rest. This tells me that a lot of people around me are part of this journey. And when my school days are hard, they give me the extra fuel to see me through to the next day. I am so lucky to have this atmosphere of people around me and I feel so responsible. I believe my joy is their joy.

In that regard, before I make a decision, I think about what my A to Z Literacy Movement family, my mom, and everyone else would say or feel, knowing that what I am deciding doesn’t only affect me but everyone who tirelessly works hard to make sure I’m in school. I’m honored to be at the University of Lusaka, one of the best universities in Zambia. Thank you, everyone, for making my dream a reality. I am grateful to be a Bachelor of Medicine student finishing my first year with success. For that, I thank you for all the support and I will continue to give it my all just as you have given me everything.

(Thank you, Jonathan Mwale, for this week’s blog post. We are so proud of his dedication to not only change his life but to make a positive impact within his family and community.)

Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, Today!

Independent bookstores have been a staple in my life and in the life of so many people I know.  Are they a staple in your life?

For the past twenty years, I have lived in Crystal Lake, IL. When I first moved to Crystal Lake, I found myself driving to Naperville to visit Anderson’s Book Shop. It was a joyous Saturday trip for me and my young daughter, Emma.  As Emma grew, we enjoyed many events at Anderson’s.  One I will always remember was meeting Suzanne Collins.  Emma was a huge fan of The Hunger Games series and Suzanne was her idol.  Over the years, Emma wasn’t the only one to enjoy Anderson’s with me.  My son, Michael, and I have also made the trek. Of course, my friends and I have also ventured to Anderson’s for events. Most recently, I enjoyed my visit with my friends to celebrate John Schu’s This is a School. It brought such joy to our hearts. 

When Read Between the Lynes opened in Woodstock, my access to a local independent bookstore increased and my ability to visit became more frequent.  Just like Becky Anderson, Arlene Lynes brought events to the bookstore that will forever remain a sacred memory for me.  You can only imagine my delight when Abalabix Books opened in Crystal Lake last year.  It has been a joy to visit Diane Sterverson on such a frequent basis and my library is expanding daily!

I don’t only visit independent bookstores near home. I’ve also found myself drawn to independent bookstores while I am vacationing.  My husband, Mike, has grown to accept this habit.  Today, on Independent Bookstore Day, I am on vacation at our cabin in Wisconsin.  I won’t be able to visit Becky, Arlene, or Diane today, but I will make my way to The Shade Tree in Minocqua–my favorite local bookstore up north. 

What are your plans for the day?  Consider finding a local bookstore near you!

Thanks to Anastasia Gruper for today’s blog post.

There’s Something Different In the Air

This week I went to the Cary Public Library post-book sale giveaway for non-profits. You may or may not know, but libraries are an integral part of our mission. Many area libraries have regular book sales from their collections to the public. Afterward, they invite not-for-profit organizations, homeschooling families, preschools, and the like to come and take anything they like from the leftovers. 

Like so many other times when I was browsing the children’s titles, other women and a few kids were there gathering as well. But this time, the spontaneous conversation was friendlier between the folks dropping books into their respective boxes. People inquired what organization I represented. They responded with kind, supportive words when they found out what A to Z Literacy Movement does. One woman wanted our contact information, as she may have some books to offer to us in the future. Later, when another patron accidentally started flipping through the first lady’s pile of books that she’d set aside to take home, the response from the former was kind and understanding rather than competitive, which I have seen at previous book giveaways. “We are in this world together,” said the first. “That is so true,” said the second. 

Another interaction I had with a woman and her child resulted in the woman asking if I could take a donation right then and there. I have never had this happen in my ten-plus years of gathering books for A to Z Literacy. Since I am the treasurer, I happily accepted the $20 bill the woman pulled from her purse because what I told her about our work giving books to children, “spoke to her heart.”

I’m not sure if it is a result of a post-Covid world, a world where Russia is actively attacking Ukraine bringing out our empathy, or if it is something else, but I received more than some fine books that we can pass along to the young generation at the giveaway at Cary Library. I received a reminder that we ARE in this world together. Helping others is something that everyone should do in some kind way at various points in their lives. And even showing an interest in other people’s passions is a stepping stone to greater conversations.

Blog Post by Pat Kelly, A to Z Literacy Movement Treasurer and Book Gatherer

Valuable Local Library Donations

Since I attend a college out of state, I get the privilege of being able to extend the A to Z Literacy Movement beyond Illinois and Zambia, but to Michigan as well.  As a junior at Oakland University, my classes are embedded in elementary schools, and this semester I am placed in the city of Troy. As I have been working in the Troy School District, I have learned so much about the city’s history and learned a lot about schools, libraries, and other important landmarks. Due to the close connection I have with the schools, I reached out to Friends of the Troy Library and they generously donated 9 boxes of books to our organization. These books include chapter books, nonfiction books, dictionaries, workbooks, and much more. The Friends of the Troy Library were kind, supportive, and are excited to continue to donate to our organization. Troy Library is helping us strive towards our mission – the movement to provide literacy for students all over the world. It is because of organizations, like the Friends of the Troy Library, that we are able to provide high-quality children’s books to students all over the world. With these donations, A to Z Literacy Movement continues to improve the literacy lives of students one book at a time.

-Jalisa Cruz

5 Audiobooks for People Who Think They Have No Time To Read

In a world full of short-form content and an endless 24-hour news cycle, it’s no surprise that many of us are finding it difficult to make time for reading. I personally went through a long reading drought in 2021, when the novelty of quarantine had worn off, and I no longer set aside dedicated reading time as I had during the early days of staying in and distracting myself. Enter: audiobooks. 

Having previously snubbed the audio format (does listening to a book even count as reading?) I’m now a convert, and constantly have an audiobook on the go, even while simultaneously reading a physical book. The multitasker’s dream, audiobooks allow me the freedom to get on with other things while taking in books, squeezing it in during car journeys and household chores in a way that wasn’t possible when reading a paperback or ebook.

With that in mind, I’m here to share my audiobook picks for those among us who struggle to fit in reading, but would like to get back into it. Happy listening!

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

You’ve probably been told by at least one person when discussing favorite books, that The Alchemist changed their life. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been promising to get to it ever since.

Well, with the audiobook version, there’s now an easily digestible way to take in The Alchemist, even if you’re busy. Clocking in at around 4 hours, it’s on the shorter side and is a great way of getting your feet wet in the audiobook game. Warming and inspiring, this iconic coming-of-age story makes for a wonderful audio experience (bonus points for the velvety narration of Jeremy Irons in the most recent version).

With the help of the audiobook, you can tick off a classic over the course of one road trip — if only to let the book’s devotees know you have, in fact, read it.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood

Although considerably longer than The Alchemist at 11 hours, what makes The Handmaid’s Tale so perfect as an option for the chronically busy among us is its bitesize chapters — 46 of them, to be precise, making for an average of about 15 minutes per chapter.

If dystopian literature with a feminist slant is your type of thing, the audiobook version provides the perfect companion to a commute, with the short chapters making it an ideal pick for pausing and restarting when you’re only able to squeeze in a little bit of listening each day.

  1. Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

If you find it difficult to keep your attention on longer stories, why not try a short story anthology on for size? Stephen King’s iconic horror collection Everything’s Eventual is an excellent place to start. Consisting of 11 short stories and 3 novellas, the varying lengths of these twisted tales mean you can tailor your listening to whatever task you’re doing so that you’ll always have the perfect soundtrack for your day. 

A word of warning: while it’s the multitasker’s dream, I wouldn’t recommend bringing this spine-chiller along on your late-night dog walks. You’ll probably strain your neck from having to check over your shoulder, just one more time, just to be safe.

  1. A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

If I were a betting woman, I’d guess that you watched Game of Thrones while it was on TV. And, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, if you had time to watch it on TV, you probably have time to listen to the audiobook, too.

It’s a lengthy book (33 hours, all told), but packs into those hours a lifetime’s worth of intrigue, action, and mystery. Next time you’re tempted to binge-watch that other HBO show, why not get this audiobook out instead? 

  1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This final pick is on the list not for the length of its chapters nor the manageable length, although both apply, but because it is simply an excellent listening experience. 

If I had to prioritize recommending a single audiobook to the unconvinced listener, this would be the one. Gut-wrenchingly honest and beautiful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a masterpiece of the memoir genre, and listening to the incomparable Maya Angelou narrate her own words brings this essential reading to life even further than the written word on the page. You won’t regret parting with a few hours of your time to take this one in.
Audio is the fastest growing book format in the world, and that means that both traditional and indie publishers have been dedicating a lot more time and resources to producing them. The upside for readers is that the quality and quantity of audiobooks available have grown massively over the past few years. That means now’s the perfect time to check out one of my picks, or discover one of your own — a whole world of beautiful stories awaits!

Rose Atkinson-Carter is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best self-publishing resources and professionals like editors, designers, and ghostwriters. She lives in London.

Why A to Z?

(It is a pleasure to welcome Jalisa Cruz to the A to Z Literacy Movement team and hope you enjoy her first blog post.)

I have been blessed to watch A to Z Literacy Movement strive for the past decade from behind the scenes. This organization began when I was in middle school and I can vividly remember Mal Keenan coming into my classroom to share her experiences in Zambia, Africa. I was in awe of the organization’s selflessness, their passion to give back, and their determination as educators to provide literacy for students across the world. Fast-forwarding to my junior year of high school, I got the privilege to be able to work with A to Z Literacy as part of a semester-long project. As a class: we raised money for the organization, reached out to local elementary schools to donate books, made friendship bracelets and Christmas cards to students in Zambia, and lastly, we created engaging lesson plans for teachers to use with leveled books to support their students.

From the time A to Z began, it was a dream of mine to give back and make an impact. My junior year of high school fueled that passion and dream. Now, I am a junior at Oakland University studying Elementary Education, and witnessing more than ever the importance of literacy and supporting the learning needs of students. As I am approaching the end of my college education, I want to use my blessings and my education to make an impact. Education is a priceless gift –– a gift that I hope to be able to give kids across the world. I am humbled to be part of the next generation of educators providing an equitable education for students, supporting the needs of each student, and ensuring that each student has the opportunity to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. So, why A to Z? A to Z is a movement that fights to provide literacy and education for students in Zambia, Africa, and across the world. I am blessed to have been able to see A to Z from behind the scenes for so many years, and now I have the opportunity to fight alongside them in this movement. A to Z is supporting my passions, my dreams, and helping me be the best educator I can be inside and outside of the classroom.