Helping Kids Choose Books

By Anastasia Gruper

letter from summer school

We recently had the opportunity to chat with over 300 kids at District 47 summer school about our favorite topic––books.  The LMC was bustling with the buzz of book talks as each student chose two “just right” books for themselves or anyone they thought would like a book. Helping kids choose and then watching as they fell into the flow of reading was a joy for all.

We were excited to receive this thank you note from the students in Mrs. Widdowson, Ms. Lentine, and Mrs. T’s class.  Their shared writing experience was a true gift. Thank you, Mrs. White and Mr. Knoth for allowing us the opportunity to share the love of reading with so many excited readers. Happy Reading Everyone!

Local Summer Outreach & Shipping Success

On June 28th, A to Z Literacy Movement volunteers hosted their annual free book fair for 300 students attending summer school in Crystal Lake. Girls and boys in grades one through eight were able to self-select two books to take home . . . that’s 600 books to enjoy! Yeh!


In addition, we have shipped the last of our four shipments for 2018. One major celebration was sending children’s books to a small library in Pakistan – a new country for us to connect with and support young readers. And while the cost of shipping has increased, we are still deeply committed to getting books into the hands of children around the world.

On July 20th, Betty, Alia, and Mal will head back to Zambia to work with our partner schools, Shine Zambia Reading Academy and School of Hope. Be on the lookout for an email with details of their experiences.

And as always, thank you for continuing to support us and believing in our mission to increase the love of reading everywhere. We could not do this work without YOU!

Planning & Progress

By Alia Hammerstone

A typical A to Z meeting begins with a plethora of hugs and a few minutes of catching up in the Keenan’s kitchen. This particular Wednesday is no different, despite the chill and damp in the air outside, we are warmed with the greetings and small talk this monthly meeting affords us.

We then gather around the living room and watch Chimamanda Ngozi’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story”. It is a thought-provoking story of the assumptions and stereotypes people give credence to; and how a single story (about people, places, etc.) often leads to misunderstandings.

After a brief discussion on the impact of the Ted Talk, and how it relates to our work, we move to the dining room and gather around some snacks and agendas. At this time, we talk a few moments to go around and celebrate one good thing to share – from weddings and travels to graduations and new professional developments. Our conversations are organic, driven by both the agenda and our own collaboration.

This month’s focus was on finalizing a new location to host our annual February fundraising event, summer plans and continuing to grow with our outreach. Mary worked hard on connecting with local event spaces, and A to Z is excited to announce our annual FUNdraiser event will be at Smith’s Central Garage in McHenry! We are thrilled at the opportunity to grow and host our event in such a unique space.

Another area A to Z Literacy is looking to expand is with more local outreach for organizations who help marginalized teens struggling with mental health. Our goal is to increase outreach with young adults and continue to promote literacy within the community.

Mal, Betty, and Alia will be traveling to Zambia this July and shared their tentative plans for the workshop they will help facilitate at School of Hope. Part of what makes A to Z so successful is the continuous brainstorming and feedback of the members; everyone comes bearing a wealth of knowledge and experiences that help to guide our events and efforts.

The meeting tends to wrap up much the same as it started, with embraces around and well-wishes for the weeks ahead until our next meeting. We leave with a purpose and set of ideas to investigate- be it for local/global outreach, book drives, donations, etc. Our organization is thrilled to be continuing work this summer, both locally- with our book drive at D47’s Glacier Ridge, and abroad- with our continuing work in Zambia.

A Shipment: From Start to Finish

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It all starts with a fundraiser – like dodgeball tournaments at Bernotas Middle School and Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. These fantastic schools hosted their annual A to Z Dodgeball Tournaments to raise funds for the shipping of books.

A to Z volunteers then hit the local libraries (post book sales) to gather free children’s books. (Library books are especially awesome as the sturdy hardcover selection provides a balanced assortment for our recipients.) Once the books are hand-picked, they are then boxed up, addressed, and bagged. Ready for the post office!

At the post office, the patient postal worker, Donna, methodically weighs each box, types in all of the shipping information, and ensures each M-Bag has a customs form attached to the M-Bag tag.   It’s a process . . .  and the line of people behind us usually grows as we work through each box . . . it takes between 30-40 minutes.

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Today we shipped six boxes of children’s books to a new country – Pakistan. So exciting! Shearyar Arif Jessani found our nonprofit via the internet and requested an A to Z shipment for a small community library.  The little library will serve as a reading room for children in the area and the boys and girls will be able to check library books out as well.

As always, we are so grateful for our supporters who continue to help us meet our goals and live out our mission to increase the love of reading and get books into children’s hands.

Honoring Aunt Jo and Her Love of Reading

aunt Jo

A to Z recently received a financial gift from the Robinson/Stough Family in honor of their Aunt Joanne’s 90th birthday.

The note on the back of the donation form read:

Aunt Jo’s life has inspired us all with the message that reading books are the answer to a lot of the world’s problems and we know this is part of the A to Z’s important mission. Thank you for the work you are doing to help some wonderful children start to reach their potential.  ~The Robinson/Stough Family

We are so grateful to this family for their generous gift and feel truly honored to be included in Aunt Jo’s birthday celebration as she is a kind, thoughtful, and loving teacher who still believes books can save the world. Here’s to you, Aunt Jo!

 

Bidding and Baskets

As the A to Z team continues to prep for our upcoming event, Libations For Literacy, we wanted to share a few of the amazing auction items that will be available to bid on February 3rd from 7:00-10:00 at the Park Place in Crystal Lake.

As always, we have great tickets for local sporting events like the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Wolves, Schaumburg Boomers, and the Windy City Bulls. This year’s Cubs tickets offer incredible seats behind home plate on the lower level.

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For those guests who enjoy getting out and about, we have Raue Center and Paramount Theatre tickets to bid on as well as a family four pack to the Chicago Field Museum.

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Along with tickets to events, our team has creatively put together a variety of gift baskets that offer something for everyone. Golf? We’ve got it. Coffee and tea? Ready. Photography and local artwork? You bet! Fun things for your home? Check.

And of course, while you are bidding on different auction items, you will be sampling different beers provided by Crystal Lake Brewing and Wild Onion Brewery or tasting delicious wines provided by Scott and Garfield’s Beverage Warehouse.

Head to the A to Z website to purchase your tickets or feel free to purchase at the door. We can’t wait to see you!

A Request For Books

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Hello, my name is Christine. I am a friend of Sydney and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia. My school has started to build a small library and starting to slowly gather some books, but I would love a more variety of books for my students to learn and engage themselves to their fullest abilities. I heard that you may be able to help me in starting to enlarge this library with donating books? This would really mean so much to me. Having the students stay after school and read can really improve their confidence in learning English. Thank you so much. Christine K.

Emails like this one from Christine arrive in my A to Z inbox often. Receiving requests for children’s books from Peace Corps volunteers in Zambia, librarians in Swaziland, and teachers in Ghana always makes me smile. It brings me hope. These hard-working individuals believe in the power of literacy. Along with our partners across oceans, parent groups in McHenry County, church volunteers in Lake County, and community center volunteers also email to request book donations for their programs. And again, I am filled with joy as I read and know people all over the local area care about literacy. They, like me, believe reading opens doors.

To ship Christine the six boxes of children’s books we usually send, it will cost A to Z about $1,200. Our nonprofit organization is hoping to send at least five separate shipments in 2018 with Christine being our first one in this “sending season”. Please consider attending our annual fundraiser, Libations For Literacy, on Saturday, Feb. 3rd from 7:00-10:00 at Park Place in Crystal Lake, IL. You can purchase tickets on the A to Z website or buy them at the door. With your generous support, we can get Christine her books and help this Peace Corps volunteer promote the love of reading in Zambia.

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