Would You Consider Donating a Book?

As summer begins, we are excited about opportunities to participate in several local outreach events and we need your help! Would you consider donating a like-new or gently-used book (or two) to help ensure we have enough books? Specifically, we need books that boys (and girls) will enjoy.

Here’s what kids are asking for when we host an event:

  1. Big Nate series
  2. Dog Man series
  3. Diary of Wimpy Kid series
  4. I Survived series
  5. InkHeart series
  6. Ranger’s Apprentice series
  7. Gordon Korman Everest or Island series
  8. Harry Potter series
  9. Secret Agent Jack Stalwart
  10. New Kid by Jerry Craft

If you have a book (or two) to donate, please contact Mal at mal@atozliteracy.org. We can pick your books up or you can drop them off. Thanks so much for your support!

Excited About Local Reading Outreach

We have been waiting. Patiently waiting. Sifting and sorting. Boxing and bagging. Thankfully, as COVID cases have dropped and vaccinations have become available, our A to Z team has finally been able to get out into the community to promote the love of reading and get books into kids’ hands this spring!

To be safe and socially distanced, we created A to Z Books in Bags. With several baby board books in one bag and intermediate boy books in another, we loaded up a variety of bags with children’s books to give away at a local food pantry and family health clinic. There were primary book bags, middle school book bags, and intermediate book bags. Sure, we wish kids could have self selected their books at these two events, but the books in bags were a hit!

We also had the opportunity to host a Ready For Summer Reading free book fair at a small school in Elgin. Each student was able to self select two books to jump start their summer reading. Watching kids browse the book selection brought me true joy, and even better, was to listen to the conversations among students as they made their decisions: I love that guy! He’s so funny…It’s so hard to choose…This was one of my favorites from my childhood (said by a 4th grader)…Did you see any books about cicadas?

As an organization, we believe in supporting the reading lives of kids, helping to build their at-home libraries, and promoting the love of reading with these small local outreach events. If you have like-new or gently-used children’s books that you would be willing to donate, please reach out to me (mal@atozliteracy.org). We are currently accepting preschool through middle school books for summer literacy events.

Two Sisters in Two States Promoting the Love of Reading

How can a conversation over Zoom about remote learning between sisters during a pandemic turn into helping kids gain access to books in another country? How can that happen when one sister lives in Illinois and the other lives in Texas? It happens over several months. 

In the beginning, my sister Mary, a children’s librarian, contacted me about how she could reach the kids in her small town in Texas. We began the discussion by using the local school’s platform–Seesaw. I taught my sister to use that platform and then more conversations occurred. She wanted to know more about how she could reach kids with even more books. As the children’s librarian, she does a great job reading books online in English and Spanish. The kids in town love it! And I learned my sister was fluent in Spanish. 

But as the pandemic continued, summer came, and she knew she needed to add to the program. What else could she use to reach kids who really just wanted to read? The library had a book pick up service but Mary wanted to make contact with these kiddos. More conversations ensued and I showed my sister how I teach reading online with an online reading program. She began using that program after completing grant paperwork in order to purchase the program for the library. Success with the kids! 

Mary and I continued to talk and she mentioned an orphanage across the border that people in town often helped.  One student and parent in particular loved the program Mary was doing. This parent was also in the curriculum department at the local university. At a department meeting, another professor mentioned the orphanage across the border. The parent of the student mentioned that his child was involved in a local reading online reading program and should contact Mary. Another conversation between sisters. Could this work? Could a pandemic bring online reading to a small orphanage across the border from a small Texas town. Could something good come out of something awful?

(Special thanks to Kate Hatfield for this week’s blog post.)

Summer Reading and Great Conversations

For kids everywhere, this past school year ended with virtual goodbyes and feelings of uncertainty around what will happen in August. Teachers and students tried their very best during the remote learning, but at times, it was challenging to stay motivated and engaged. So now with summer in full swing, I believe one great way to support kids, academically and emotionally, is through small neighborhood book clubs. 

With a selection of four different books to choose from, I invited my 4th-grade neighbor to join me in some fun summer reading outside on the patio. We are currently reading The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani which is a fantastic story of a girl traveling from Pakistan to India during the partition of 1947. Like any good book club, we have enjoyed snacks while reading favorite parts, and of course, have gotten off topic with conversations about getting your ears pierced, picking out the right cat from the local shelter, and discussing the importance of why people are protesting in the world right now. Sure, the book has supported Penelope’s reading comprehension, but more importantly, our conversations have generated connection which will elevate her social emotional skills and promote the love of reading. And more good news–my book club partner has invited two more neighbors to join us in our next book, Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed.

(Thanks to Dr. Mal Keenan for the blog post this week)

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

 

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 to Z’s East Coast Connection

By Betty Trummel

Since I moved from Crystal Lake to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I’ve been thinking about ways to get involved with my “new” community.  What was I passionate about supporting back home in Illinois?  What can I do to better my community no matter where I live?  Of course, my involvement and connection with A to Z Literacy Movement has been extremely important to me since our organization began.  I felt there was no reason not to bring this important work with me when I moved to the East Coast.  In the brief time, I’ve lived on Cape Cod, I have been excited about creating new possibilities for literacy!

During this holiday season, a wonderful opportunity developed for A to Z Literacy to partner with my local school in Harwich, Massachusetts and the Family Pantry of Cape Cod on a successful book drive!

Over 1,200 books were donated by Harwich Elementary School! Over 300 NEW books went into holiday toy/gift bags given out on December 17th at the Family Pantry.

900+ books went right into the “boutique” at the Family Pantry, where folks can choose books when they come to get food and clothing.

bags and books

About 35 nonfiction books will be taken with me when I travel to Zambia next July…to be used in instruction and donated to the library at Shine Zambia Reading Academy.

books

I’m feeling great about the generosity of so many…thank you Harwich Elementary School for your fabulous effort with the book drive!  Thank you to the Family Pantry of Cape Cod for welcoming me and being open to creating this partnership.  Our nonprofit strives to get books into the hands of vulnerable children, whether it is through local or international projects.  Thank you A to Z Literacy, for having such a profound impact on my life both personally and as an educator.

No matter where we all live, it’s easy to find ways to support others, during the holiday season and all year long.  Happy Holidays, wherever you are!

Another Summer School Book Fair

A to Z Literacy Movement had the privilege to host another local book fair this morning at Coventry Elementary School in Crystal Lake. Over one hundred students in grades first through fifth came to check out the selection of free books and then choose a few for their home libraries.

As we strive to meet our 2016 goals, A to Z will continue to provide books for children in McHenry County and other parts of Illinois in hopes in making a difference locally by promoting the love of reading and increasing literacy levels.