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A New School Year!

By Betty Trummel

Jimmy and mum

We got word from our Lusaka Rotary Club contact, Masautso, that he was able to meet with some of the students A to Z is sponsoring and help them arrange their school fees for the new year.  Being in the southern hemisphere means that a new school year begins in January or February.

As I think about the start of my school year back in August here in Illinois, I’m thinking of kids with new shoes, maybe some new clothes, school supplies, and the excitement of a well-decorated elementary classroom filled with books and bulletin boards and lots and lots of resources.  That is not the reality for many children around the world.

The students we sponsor are given the gift of a year of schooling, at what we would consider a relatively small price. Leftover funds can be used for basic school supplies or school uniform.  Children we sponsor show great excitement and gratitude for being given this chance to continue learning.

Jimmy, the student my husband and I chose to sponsor, is 17 years old and is entering the 10th grade.  He would like to complete his secondary schooling and attend a university.  He’s interested in possibly following a path to medicine in the future.  He’s a quiet young man, and very serious about his schoolwork and exams.

When our A to Z Literacy Movement team worked at Shine Zambia Reading Academy last June, Jimmy and other former Shine students came by each day to meet with us.  They are eager for us to keep teaching them, and they took great pride in sharing their notebooks and work with our team.  I am happy that my family can assist Jimmy with school fees, basic supplies, and uniforms.

In Jimmy’s words:  “I want to say thanks for everything that you have done for us/me, cause you have taught me a lot of things and I believe you are still going to teach me more.  I have seen a huge thing in you guys…just to come and help us, for there are few people who do this that you are doing.  I have seen a lot of passion in you and you have a caring and loving heart.  What you are doing shows a lot of kindness.”


By Pat Kelly

As I listened to a student’s class presentation about Mahatma Gandhi, he quoted the significant man: “In a gentle way you can shake the world.” I wrote the quote down and instantly began to think about it’s application to A to Z Literacy Movement.

In our own little way we have shaken the world. Or at least one corner of it. A to Z receives  support through a variety of resources: literature, volunteers’ time, financial and even verbal, through those who share our mission in conversations.

With last month’s celebration of Thanksgiving comes reflection on all that has occurred for A to Z Literacy this year. We’ve had numerous new fundraisers and have been fortunate to rely on our annual philanthropists as well. We have had schools who named us the beneficiary of their book fair, buying scads of books for us with their revenue generated. We have had donors find us and bring us boxes of books bound for children’s hands. In Zambia we met new friends at The School of Hope and have given them a shake, sending boxes and boxes of books in a shipping container and locating a set of requested encyclopedias.

Gandhi was a man of wise words and ways. Countless individuals will herald his methods and follow his advice. At A to Z Literacy, we use Gandhi quotations to move and shake us in our work. Comment below and share some of your favorite quotes!

Giving Tuesday

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As we enter into the holiday season, please consider donating to A to Z Literacy Movement on this Giving Tuesday. While we are a small nonprofit, A to Z continues to make a difference and improve the lives of impoverished children through literacy development. We work really hard to get books into the hands of children and are committed to increase the love of reading locally and globally.  

Click “Donate” on the right to give now.

“It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.” Mother Theresa

Tweets Inspired by Donalyn Miller

By Mal Keenan


On Monday, I had the awesome opportunity to spend the day learning with Donalyn Miller at Judson University. She shared her knowledge of reading with 200 teachers and had so many great things to say.

Throughout the day, I tweeted ideas that resonated with me and wanted to share them with you:

Reading fosters empathy.

We throw out the pedagogy when we can’t get the management to work.

Set small goals and check in daily with reluctant readers.

For many kids, graphic novels, comics, and series are the gate to lifelong reading.

How can we leverage read alouds to introduce new authors to our students?

The act of reading is not final until we can pass the book on or discuss it with others.

There’s not a lot of hope in the word “weakness”, so I use the word “goal”.


Math Textbooks are Making Their Way to Zambia

By Pat Kelly


The load of a half ton of math textbooks I was transporting made my SUV handle a lot differently. I was light in the front end and needed to allow more time for braking. On top of that, it was rush hour on the expressway and a rush job to get the books back to Crystal Lake, address the boxes and get them to the post office pronto.

Flashback to Zambia, June of this year.

When visiting the School of Hope, our friend and headmistress of the school Kathleen told us they needed math textbooks. To make it easier for us, there was a shipping container leaving Delaware in August which would bring a multitude of goods to the village and school. If we could locate and gather math books and send them to Delaware versus Zambia, that would be much kinder to A to Z Literacy’s checkbook.

Well, as luck would have it, we asked and Follett School Solutions delivered. Jean B., a friend of A to Z, knows a guy, who put us onto a gal, who through Follett was able to donate about a half ton of math textbooks.


Time was of the essence though, and within a couple days, the heavy boxes of books needed to be picked up from Woodridge, IL, labeled and shipped at the Crystal Lake Post Office. The container was leaving in a week and we gambled on shipping the goods media mail- a slower, more economical method. During a nail biting week, we waited for email confirmation the books had arrived on time. After urging our friends on the receiving end to check the post office and around the church premises (the location of the container), the books turned up at the eleventh hour! Whew!

Now they are en route to Zambia, waiting to deliver their knowledge to eager youngsters. Was it ever worth the hustle.


Storage Wars – Part 2

By Mal Keenan

green door storage

Last year, Pat wrote about her storage facility experience of receiving new books from a donor who previously sold children’s educational materials for a living. The donor had accumulated boxes of science and social studies trade books along with multiple boxes of small guided reading books. The storage space needed to be cleaned out and we were thrilled to receive the assortment of books. Total score for A to Z.

This past weekend, Wendy and I traveled to another storage facility (which is another story for a different day – Americans and their storage units) to collect eighteen boxes of books from another donor who levels books for a living. Levels books for a living? Right, so publishers send copies of books to Monica and then she determines the grade and guided reading level. Once leveled, the books sit patiently in a storage unit. After a few years of waiting and not needing to be referenced again, the books are free to go. As we loaded them up, I was all smiles. A to Z scored again. Our little nonprofit is making a difference and people like Monica who levels books for a living are willing to help us help others.

“Zambia, Zambia, what do you see?” A story comes full circle…

By Betty Trummel

A couple of nights ago I finished writing the book I had started with the children at Shine Zambia Reading Academy.  As I pressed “order” to send the book to Apple for printing, I felt that strong connection with my African friends once again.  Smiling faces, fingers curled into small, pretend binoculars around their eyes, it took me back to June when I stood in their classrooms reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Using my photographs of African animals (and thanks to a good friend who had amazing lion photos), and the pattern of words in this book, a new book has been written.  I can’t wait to get copies of the book, and send them to Shine.  The teaching will have come full circle…reading and listening, brainstorming ideas, writing, publishing, and sharing.

It is my hope that students at Shine Zambia Reading Academy will be motivated by this book to write their own stories. Being a part of A to Z Literacy Movement  has motivated me to keep writing down my stories and sharing them with students around the world.  Everyone has stories to share.  What’s your story?

Recent Email

By Mal Keenan

I love reading how happy folks are when the boxes of books finally arrive. These messages reinforce the work we are doing and motivate me to continue the mission of A to Z Literacy Movement.
Here’s one that arrived today:

Dear Mal,

I hope you’re having a great year. I just wanted to write and say THANK YOU!!!!!!!! The books arrived in Ghana and they are AMAZING!!!! They actually arrived a few weeks ago and I had grand and glorious ideas of taking pictures and sending them to you, but since that has been delayed, just wanted at least to say thank you and let you know they arrived safely.

Just a quick update on our end, the library bookshelves were just installed, so I’ve got a team ready to come and organize them and get them ready to go. We’re just about ready to re-open this library. Super exciting!!

Thanks so much for your support. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Receiving emails from recipients of A to Z book shipments never gets old.

First Grade Service

by Anastasia Gruper

When two boxes of books were anonymously shipped to A to Z, we wondered who could have done such a kind deed.  However, when a note arrived the following week with a money order for $200.03 our questions were answered and hearts warmed.  Miss Martin’s first grade class at Alwood Elementary School choose A to Z Literacy Movement as the charity they wanted to contribute to for their year long service project. All year students collected change and books. Furthermore, they manned a lemonade stand for the two reading nights their school hosted. As we talked about the efforts of the first grade class, we were all reminded of how when everyone works together goals are accomplished.  Thank you to Miss Martin and her first grade class for contributing to our cause and helping to increase literacy in the impoverished areas of Africa.  With the help of first graders and students everywhere, we will continue to make the world better.