Pursuing His Dreams

By Alia Hammerstone


Volunteering with A to Z, I have always heard about Jonathan–an inspiring young man from Zambia who we have supported throughout his youth–from Shine Reading Academy to Munali secondary school. Bright, inquisitive, driven–countless A to Z members described this young man in glowing terms. My drive to help support Jonathan developed as an extension of my drive to support students locally through literacy development.

Arriving in Zambia this past summer, I was immediately taken aback by the profound maturity and wisdom of this young man I had heard so much about. Instantaneously, I recognized the same drive and desire to learn in Jonathan as I have encountered in thousands of students locally–and was truly struck by the universality of education. Jonathan impressed me with with his confidence and ambition–he was composed and curious, driven and dedicated.

Something that drives Jonathan is his desire to pursue an education in medicine. Since his formative years, Jonathan has been interested in the medical field. One of the things that I admired most in Jonathan was his passion for giving back–he believes that a career in the medical field is an opportunity to give back to his community. “I am what I am because of the community,” he says. The idea that this young man wishes to pursue a career in the field of medicine to make a difference in people’s lives is truly altruistic, and speaks volumes about his character.


As an organization, A to Z Literacy Movement has supported Jonathan for the past ten years–from primary to secondary school–and we hope to continue to help this young man achieve his goals. Our 10th Anniversary fundraiser, “A Decade in the Books” seeks to raise funds to help Jonathan attend college and to see our support through to the end of Jonathan’s academic career- and the beginning of his professional career in the medical field. I invite you to join A to Z Literacy Movement in our commitment to raise the funds and resources to help Jonathan in his pursuits. Please join us on February 2nd at Smith’s Central Garage in McHenry from 5:00 to 8:00 for a fun-filled evening as we seek to continue our dedication to Jonathan and other students in providing books and resources to strengthen literacy achievement.

Clever Ways to Encourage Reading

by Betty Trummel

In the past week I discovered two ingenious ways to attract and encourage reading. In both cases, stunning visual displays play a huge role. Let me share these ideas with you.

Many of you have seen Little Free Libraries, and are aware of the enormous benefit of “recycling” our books to give the gift of reading to others. In this instance, a librarian from Idaho turned the stump of a 110-year-old tree into a magical library for her neighborhood. How cool is that?


Talk about recycling! Not only has she reused and shared books, but she’s cleverly found a purpose for the tree she had to cut down. I’d love to “check” a book out of this library!!


The second inspiration I’d like to share has transformed the English department hallway of Mundelein High School (suburban Chicago, Illinois) into a fantastic learning environment.


Students who recently returned from their holiday break were treated to a big surprise…the walls on either side of classroom doorways now resembling spines of books on a shelf.


I am so happy when I see projects like these that encourage readers of all ages. Unique displays draw people in to find out more, and create happy spaces for literacy.

A Decade in the Books


Please join us for our 10th-anniversary celebration and fundraiser.

We are hoping to see you on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in a very cool, NEW location–Smith’s Central Garage–and a NEW time from 5:00-8:00. You will be able to enjoy wine samples from Garfield’s, craft beers from area breweries, and delicious appetizers while bidding on silent auction items.

Head to atozliteracy.org to purchase tickets, $35 per person in advance, or $40 per person at the door. If you are unable to attend, please consider making a donation to support our mission.bug bullet copy


New Venue for February Fundraiser & Celebration

Smith's outside

By Pat Kelly

What do corrugated metal barn siding, reclaimed bleacher wood and A to Z Literacy Movement have in common? They are all pieces of our upcoming fundraiser “A Decade in the Books”, to be held at a hip new venue in McHenry called Smith’s Central Garage. Formerly a mechanic’s garage, Smith’s has brought a unique gathering place to the vibrant riverfront area north of Route 120. It is a well planned site with lots of industrial metal, concrete and wood. The bar inside is a casual, homey hangout constructed of vintage materials with a focus on Chevrolets. A fantastic space to hold a fundraiser!

So get out on Saturday, February 2nd and join us at Smith’s Central Garage from 5-8 p.m! Come on inside this cozy locale and sample wines and local beers, bid on some gift baskets and support A to Z as they celebrate their 10th anniversary. Afterward, other interesting spots such as Bimbo’s Italian Restaurant and McHenry Brewing Company are just around the block awaiting your visit.

Inside Smith's


The Gift of Literacy…Under the Christmas Tree

By Betty Trummel

As long as I can remember, giving or receiving books as Christmas gifts has been a family tradition. For readers young or old, unwrapping a new book holds such potential.

Will the reader be entertained by a great story or fascinating characters? 

Or, will a nonfiction book provide new information on science, history, or culture? 

Could it be that special book that just captures our hearts with  great illustrations or photographs or whimsical tales that stand the test of time?

On a recent visit to Boston I was reminded of two classic children’s books that I hope find their way under many Christmas trees and into the hands of young readers this year.


“Make Way For Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey made Boston and its Public Gardens familiar to children around the world. These bronze statues in the Public Garden today immortalize the ducklings, depicting them making their way through Boston’s historic park.



In E.B.White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan” the main character, Louis the trumpeter swan, visits the Boston Public Garden and accompanies the famous swan boats as he plays his trumpet.  



These are two of my favorite children’s stories. I read both books when I was young and shared them with my children and students countless times through the years!

What books will you give or hope to find under your tree?

The Gift of Reading

By Mal Keenan


Are you giving a good book to someone on your gift list this year?

Books can be enlightening and exciting.


They move you.

Change you.

Affirm you.

Books act like windows to better understand other people’s lives,

Helping the reader to become more empathetic of others.

Books can also act as mirrors,

To help us see ourselves more clearly in the larger human experience.

Books encourage us to think more deeply about the world around us.

Perhaps you might consider giving a book (or two) as a gift this holiday season?

Blog inspired by the work of Rudine Sims Bishop (1990)

You Need to Read

By Pat Kelly

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Yes, you hear it from time to time, however, now research even backs it up. Reading as little as a half an hour a day will impact your longevity significantly in a positive manner. Becca Levy, Yale professor of epidemiology, led a study which supported that a benefit of reading, and not just any reading, but the reading of books, grants an individual a “significant survival advantage” over those who don’t.

This is powerful information! The researcher reports that by spending as little as 30 minutes a day with your nose in a book, you can increase your life as much as two years compared to someone who is not a reader. And indications are longer periods of reading per day are better. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor; encourage time spent off electronics and on page turning!