Hitting Our Stride – Remembering a Decade in the Books

By Betty Trummel

In 2014, A to Z Literacy Movement really hit its stride as an organization.  We had established certain routines and programs, local fundraisers and events, and our work in Zambia was branching out and reaching more teachers and students.

In February we hosted our first annual Trivia Night fundraiser at Park Place in Crystal Lake.  Twelve boxes of books were sent to Ghana and northern Zambia.  The Crystal Lake Dawnbreakers Club made a generous donation that enabled A to Z to send another two shipments of books to Zambia.  


The National Jr. Honor Society at both Bernotas and Lundahl Middle Schools organized Walk-a-thons and raised over $3,000.  Bernotas also held its first annual dodgeball tournament, raising enough money for another shipment of books to a Zambian school.


Local outreach projects touched the lives of McHenry County children with Summer Story Boost volunteers reading with children every Tuesday afternoon during the summer at Garden Quarter in McHenry, and five boxes of books being donated to the School District #47 Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee.  These books were given to families attending a meeting at the end of the school year.

Other fundraising initiatives included a CrAtoZy Sock Day at a local school; the Saver’s A to Z Literacy partnership with 8,677 pounds of clothes and household goods donated to Savers and bringing in funds to our organization.  Book donations continued and we capped off the year with the Santa Christmas Book Drive at Good Shepherd Hospital.  


Our biggest outreach of the year included four educators, Mal, Betty, Pat Kelly, and Becky Roehl traveling to Zambia for two weeks during the summer. 



They continued work at Shine Zambia Reading Academy and partnered with rural School of Hope/All Kids Can Learn International. 



One of the key events included being part of a professional development workshop at School of Hope that brought in teachers from rural areas and give them the opportunity to keep learning more about teaching methods and best practices.  2014 was a fantastic year for A to Z Literacy! We continued to be grateful for our supporters!


As 2015 rolled around, our first big event was the second annual Trivia Night fundraiser at Park Place.  Our early February date for our largest fundraiser of the year was solidly in place and we were building on our successful model of years past.  

Additional fundraising and local projects included our partnership with Saver’s in Crystal Lake for their “Choose Your Cause” program. 


Woods Creek Elementary 5th graders raised $550 for A to Z during a “Coins for a Cause” fundraiser. Middle schools continued raising money with Walk-a-thons and dodgeball.  




In November “Brewery for Books” at the Crystal Lake Brewery raised funds for a late fall shipment of books to a Zambian preschool.  Linda Trummel was able to choose A to Z as the recipient of a large donation in honor of an industry award she earned.  And, once again, our Christmas book drive at Good Shepherd Hospital was a hit!


In June Mal and Dave Keenan traveled to Zambia to partner with School of Hope. 


Not only did they teach in classrooms at that school, but they provided a professional development workshop at School of Hope for over 150 Zambian educators. 


Opportunities like this helped us grow as an organization because we furthered our own learning in the process and we brought that back to our local communities.



Highlights of the year:

  • 57 boxes of books to Zambia, Ghana, Swaziland, and the Dominican Republic
  • 27 boxes of books collected, sorted and donated to local groups in McHenry County
  • 6,000 books total donated!  Wow!

Meanwhile, 88% of the contributions went to:

  • 4 Zambian student scholarships to continue with grades 10-12
  • 6 months of school lunches at Shine Zambia Reading Academy
  • Professional development for over 150 Zambian teachers


Our mighty little nonprofit continued to make a big difference in the lives of at risk and impoverished children in Zambia and those children who are at risk locally.  There was a LOT to be proud of!

Our Organization Grows and Expands Its Reach — Remembering A Decade in the Books


By Betty Trummel

This third installment in our series of posts celebrating A to Z Literacy’s 10th Anniversary includes the growth of our organization from 2012 through 2013.

To begin 2012, we hosted our second annual fundraiser “On the Vine:  Celebrating Books and Wine,” which was once again held at the Dole Mansion.  Money raised from this event along with generous donations from the Dawn Breakers Rotary Club in Crystal Lake, the McHenry Sunrise Rotary Club, and Sage Products enabled A to Z Literacy Movement to:

** ship more than 5,000 books (and other materials) to schools in Zambia including Every Orphan’s Hope, Chishiko Primary School, Chudleigh House School, Shine Zambia Reading Academy, and to a Peace Corps volunteer in Mansa, Zambia



** purchase tables, chairs, and bookshelves for Shine Zambia Reading Academy

** provide funds for one teacher’s salary and six months of school lunch at Shine Zambia Reading Academy

Local schools continued to play a part in our organization, with the National Jr. Honor Society students in Crystal Lake raising money by selling t-shirts and also hosting a walk-a-thon.  Schools and local libraries pitched in by donating books for shipment and local initiatives.  The Illinois Reading Council also donated books to A to Z Literacy.  A local outreach event that impacted McHenry Country families was hosting a free book fair at “The Clinic” held at Immanuel Lutheran Church.



A highlight of the year was having a strong team of educators traveling to Zambia in July to continue our mission.  Mal was accompanied by Kalan Gott (a returnee from 2011), Ann Yanchura, Stasia Gruper, and Mariann Zimmerman, all teachers in School District #47 in Crystal Lake.



Steady growth, solid community and school connections, and dedication to getting books into the hands of vulnerable children were all part of 2012 and blended seamlessly into 2013!


Throughout 2013 we continued with existing programs and activities such as our third annual fundraiser at the Dole Mansion; hosting a free book fair for at-risk families at “The Clinic” at Immanuel Lutheran Church; and with both Bernotas and Lundahl Middle Schools in Crystal Lake hosting walk-a-thons which raised over $7,000 for A to Z Literacy Movement.

One big new project was implemented in the summer months:  Summer Story Boost volunteers helped to create a small library for the Garden Quarter Program in McHenry. Volunteers not only read with children, but helped host two “Family Literacy Nights” with five free books for each family.



Later in the year Matt’s Tavern hosted their annual “Spoker Run” biking event and all proceeds went to A to Z Literacy.


To end 2013, we began what has become a long tradition with Good Shepherd Hospital as they hosted their “Visit With Santa” and donated books to A to Z Literacy Movement.


Deliverables for the year included funds being sent to Shine Zambia Reading Academy for school lunch costs and another teacher’s yearly salary; three shipments of books sent to Uganda, Ghana, and Zambia; and two boxes of books sent to the Regional Superintendent of Schools office in Tazewell County in Central Illinois, after a tornado hit the area.



Our organization was certainly staying busy and fulfilling our mission.


The Early Years of A to Z Literacy Movement – Remembering a Decade in the Books


By Betty Trummel

As A to Z Literacy Movement gathered momentum in 2010, other organizations started to focus their attention on our burgeoning nonprofit.  The Illinois Reading Council designated A to Z Literacy as one of their international projects for the year, classes at Husmann Elementary School collected and donated books, and the Bernotas Middle School National Jr. Honor Society held a walkathon fundraising event.




Three shipments of books were sent to Shine Zambia Reading Academy to stock their new school library, and later in the year a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia requested books to be used at a community library for preschool orphans in Zambia and a shipment (6 boxes of books) was sent.


In July, Mal and Husmann Elementary School teacher, Betty Trummel, traveled to Zambia to work with teachers and students at Shine Zambia Reading Academy and other local Lusaka schools.




It was on this trip that they met a student named Jonathan Mwale and began a mentorship with him that continues to this day.


When Mal and Betty returned to the United States, they kept sharing the key take-aways from their journey…student-created books, a book written by Betty and the Shine Zambia students that inspired her fourth graders to write their own ABC book to send back to Zambia, and connections deepened between A to Z Literacy and Zambian teachers and students.

As 2011 began A to Z Literacy Movement had its first large fundraiser, ”On the Vine:  Celebrating Books and Wine” at the Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake.  Two middle schools held fundraisers that brought in donations of over $1,300.  The McHenry Sunrise Rotary Club donated funds to ship six boxes of books to orphan homes in northern Zambia.  Husmann Elementary School teachers and students held a book drive and fifth graders raised money to purchase and send Aqua Packs to Zambia to help provide clean water where none is available.  Partnerships flourished and by the end of 2011 over 500 books had been shipped to 600 children.



Mal and fellow educator Kalan Gott traveled to Zambia to provide professional learning and modeling of lessons for teachers and students.  Our little nonprofit was really taking off!




Celebrating “A Decade in the Books!”


By Betty Trummel

Just a quick week ago we celebrated A to Z Literacy Movement’s 10-year anniversary with our annual fundraiser.  Thanks again to everyone who came out to share the evening with us! As guests dined on delicious food, bid on wonderful baskets/tickets to events, sampled beer or wine, and viewed posters sharing our work in the past ten years, it was awesome to talk with them and look back at the tremendous amount of good our small nonprofit organization has accomplished in our first ten years.


We’ll be posting a series of blogs to highlight the work of our first “Decade in the Books!”  Read on to find out more about the origin of A to Z Literacy Movement.


In 2009, Mal Keenan traveled to Zambia for the first time and saw the tremendous need for putting books into the hands of impoverished children.  After nine long months of paperwork and with the help of a lawyer, friends, and a CPA, A to Z Literacy Movement, a nonprofit 501c3 organization, was approved by the Internal Revenue Service.  Our fledgling organization was born.


Mal began collecting books from schools and other organizations who donated gently used books to A to Z Literacy Movement. Sorting books quickly became a huge part of the organization.  Volunteers diligently worked to decide which books were appropriate to send globally and which books were geared more toward local children.


As Mal’s passion for literacy and helping others grew, she soon realized that in order to move forward she needed volunteers, book finders and sorters, marketing specialists, and fundraisers.  A to Z volunteers recognized the value of social media and getting the word out through presentations, blog posts, and videos to highlight what Mal witnessed on her first trip to Zambia.


During that first year, the A to Z Literacy Movement Board and volunteer network slowly came together.  Each person’s contributions were valuable in advancing the goals and mission of our organization.

Cure For Cabin Fever

Who’s got CaBiN FeVeR?

The mid-week snow days and cancellations have put many of us at home and searching for some socialization by this time! Come on out to McHenry on Saturday evening and stop by Smith’s Central Garage at 3315 Pearl St. for A to Z Literacy Movement’s 10th-anniversary fundraiser. From 5:00 until 8:00 p.m., we will feature a wine and beer tasting, hearty appetizers, and some tremendous silent auction baskets for the highest bidder. Oh and you can leave your layers and face wraps at home! Temperatures are forecast to be in the balmy 30’s. Buy your tickets online or at the door. 


A Quick Review of Who We Are

As we prepare for our 10-year anniversary celebration and fundraiser, “A Decade in the Books”, I wanted to share a quick snapshot of A to Z Literacy Movement.

Our Mission:  A to Z Literacy Movement is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that improves the lives of impoverished children through literacy development. 

The Need:  Literacy development is critical for rebuilding communities struck by poverty and disease while improving public education efficacy.

Our Approach:  Literacy development requires more than books.  A to Z and its partners provide a variety of resources necessary for effective literacy promotion including book delivery, local literacy support, and high-quality teacher instruction.  

Our Partners and Supporters:  Strong relationships with indigenous organizations are essential for success.  A to Z works directly with local organizations that understand the specific challenges and solutions associated with literacy development in the region, such as All Kids Can Learn International and Shine Reading Academy.

Our Goals:

  • To provide professional development for 125 Zambian teachers
  • To provide books locally for at-risk children and students with special needs
  • To ship four separate shipments of children’s books to impoverished communities/schools
  • To build partnerships while providing professional development to schools in Zambia

Without YOU, our generous supporters and volunteers, we would not be able to sustain our literacy work. Because of YOU, our generous supporters and volunteers, we have had tremendous success both locally and globally.

Please consider coming out to Smith’s Central Garage on Saturday, Feb. 2nd from 5:00–8:00, to celebrate the past ten years of A to Z Literacy Movement while helping us to raise funds for our upcoming season of shipping books overseas, supporting teachers in Zambia, and getting books into the hands of children locally.  Head to our website to purchase tickets.



A Decade in the Books Update

We are nine days away from our big event, A Decade in the Books, and hope you will be able to join us next Saturday, February 2nd at Smith’s Central Garage in McHenry from 5:00–8:00 PM. Come and enjoy a beer and wine tasting, delicious appetizers while exploring the silent auction items offered. There is something for everyone from sports memorabilia to tickets for sporting events, plays, and musicals. Perhaps you love going to Ravinia? We’ve got a great basket for you! Or maybe you’re looking for a family fun basket with items such as passes for laser tag and tickets to the Field Museum? We’ve got it. As always, the evening’s proceeds will support A to Z Literacy Movement’s mission to increase literacy skills and promote a love of reading; both in Zambia and here at home in the Chicago land area.


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.