Getting Books into the Hands of Children

By Anastasia Gruper

Mrs. White made the special morning announcement, “A to Z Literacy is here today to give out free books.” The cheers that filled the classrooms (from students and adults) would have made the Grinch’s heart grow three sizes–as it did ours.  As Dave, Mal, Wendy, and Alia set up the library, I was the lucky one to invite classrooms to choose books to take home.  When I explained that each child could choose up to four free books, smiles exploded on faces.  

FullSizeRender (5)

Upon entering the library, there were hundreds of books displayed. Students walked around choosing just the right book. There were whispers and giggles about Captain Underpants and Diary of A Wimpy Kid.  Kids read fun facts to each other from the National Geographic Weird But True books.  There were endless requests for a variety of topics: armadillos, puppies, bunnies, baseball . . .  For every request, there was an adult to help guide a choice.

Students didn’t just choose books for themselves.  One student asked Mal, “Can I bring this one home to my sister? She would love it.”  Mal announced that students could bring books to anyone they thought would enjoy them.  A young boy came up to me and said, “I’m getting this one for my teacher.  She loves these books.  On the last day of school, I’m going to tie a ribbon on it for her. Don’t tell her.”  I smiled and said, “Of course, I won’t (although it’s difficult not to tell).” The gift of giving was endless today–as was the joy of reading.

FullSizeRender (4)

When students returned to their classes, they wanted to dive into their books.  Pat reported that one of her students asked to read the Amber Brown book he chose rather than listen to read aloud.  Teachers happily allowed the kids fall into the flow of reading.  Today we were grateful to share the love of reading and choice of books with so many students in Crystal Lake. Happy reading everyone!

Spring Into Action

Always a Work in Progress

A to Z Literacy Movement team members have been busy sorting and boxing gently-used children’s books over the last few months as our “Sending Season” continues through the spring and summer months. Our 2017 global outreach has been exciting as we diligently work to partner with new countries and organizations. These like-minded groups are striving to increase literacy levels with impoverished children just as we are with the mission of A to Z.  

A to Z shipped 480 children’s books to the town of Ngwenya which is located in Swaziland, Africa. A small committee of four people led by Cebelihle Mbuyisa is launching a small library and information center in a renovated classroom at the Ngwenya Primary School. The books arrived safely so we will be sending a second shipment of six boxes in June.

Pestanas Elementary School joyfully received over 500 children’s books from A to Z Literacy Movement in late winter.  This small school is located in Magcamiguing, Calamba, Philippines and is committed to helping children reach their highest potential in education.

Local outreach is continuing to strengthen as A to Z partnered with Crystal Lake School District 47 and the Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee for their annual end of the year celebration. This year, families came out to play in a soccer tournament and each child received a free book from A to Z. We believe all children should have access to books at home, so this event was extra special for us.


Generous Hearts and Service Learning  

An incredible group of eighteen Crystal Lake Central juniors once again chose A to Z Literacy Movement as their AVID service learning project and created “Books in Bags”  in Mrs. Welder’s English class. School librarian, Mrs. Nelson, played an important role in selecting fiction and nonfiction picture books for students to read and record. The students then formulated questions to pair with the books for teachers and students to enjoy at School of Hope in Zambia, Africa.

South Elementary School in Crystal Lake chose A to Z Literacy as their Coins for a Cause nonprofit fundraiser. Families and teachers generously donated $1,244.35 to our organization – an amazing gift to assist us in meeting our 2017 goals.

South Elem


Got Your Bags Gathered?


Hey A to Z Literacy Friends,

How’s the spring cleaning going? We are hopeful you will be heading to the Crystal Lake Savers this Friday, April 28th or Saturday, April 29th to drop off your second-hand donations while helping A to Z to raise a few dollars. Feel free to drop off your bags of clothing, household items, toys, sporting goods and the like. (No furniture please) And while dropping your jeans, soccer ball, and lamp, be sure to mention the donation is for A to Z Literacy Movement. They will then weigh the goods and credit our nonprofit organization.

Thanks for your continued support!




Spring Cleaning for A to Z


Yahoo! This spring break provided by Mother Nature here in northern Illinois sure has been a breath of fresh air. With the sun bringing warmer days, we hope you are doing some clearing out of clothing and items you no longer want or need with the thought of donating them.

A to Z has partnered with Savers for a few years now in holding an ongoing donation drive. Due to changes in their storage capabilities, Savers isn’t able to take secondhand donations all the time.Therefore, we have set a date for a two-day donation event at the drive through at Savers’ Crystal Lake store. Friday, April 28th & Saturday, April 29th are the days dedicated this year. Please mention A to Z Literacy Movement by name when donating items and we will receive payment for your donated goods from Savers. We’d love if you could start collecting clothing, household items, toys, sporting goods and the like (No furniture please). Stockpile them, mark your calendars for April 28th & 29th and start Spring cleaning this week!


Making the World a Better Place

By Belinda Strebel


The 4th Annual A to Z Literacy Dodgeball Tournament has left me a bit breathless. From running the halls Tuesday morning looking for players, fielding Connor’s hourly dodgeball questions, finding kids last minute players and trying to imagine new and fun ways to make this year’s event the greatest yet…I am exhausted. But, in the very best of ways. The slow trickle of kids coming into my room Monday, growing into a wave of enthusiasm on Friday afternoon, reminds me that giving up is never an option. When you are in the business of telling kids that they can make this world a better place, throwing in the towel and blaming a slow start on apathy is not the answer. Running the halls and being a crazy, flexible, creative, persistent problem solver is one of the best ways to show kids how to continue on even when things aren’t going their way. Because I truly believe that kids can change the world for the better; they just have to see some examples.

So when I think about Nathan and Johnny winning that game, the Big Bertha’s having way too much fun losing, and the Dodgeball Divas having to shave their hair, I hope that the kids remember the Viking spirit ringing through the gym, the cheering and laughing. I hope they never forget what it feels like to be a kid, getting caught up in a wave of energy. And I hope that they know that Friday wasn’t just about dodgeball. In participating, they were helping to create an enthusiasm for learning at Bernotas and halfway across the world. Because you can have fun and make the world a better place, right? What better lesson is there for a middle schooler, or really anyone, to learn? I think none.

What a Night!

Dear A to Z Supporters,

Thank you for being so very generous. Thank you for showing up and filling the room at Park Place on Saturday night. Thank you for supporting our mission and for helping us make a difference in the lives of many marginalized children. Because of you, we were able to raise $7, 142!!

Thank you for valuing the power of literacy both here in Crystal Lake, Illinois and far off places like Lusaka, Zambia. You understand the important role books play to inspire and to liberate young minds.

Thank you for being so charitable in your giving and joyfully participating in our annual fundraiser. And most importantly, thank you for helping our organization to grow and thrive over the last eight years.

Up For Grabs on Saturday Night

Wondering about our silent auction on Saturday night? Here’s a quick update. We’ve got a two day Harley Davidson rental, a wakeboard day pass at The Quarry, Blackhawks tickets, two different sets of Cubs tickets, and a print from an original ink drawing proclaiming a great book. In all, the team has gathered and assembled over 40 different fantastic items to bid on.

We are hoping you will attend A to Z’s Libations for Literacy wine and beer tasting on Saturday, February 4th at Park Place in Crystal Lake to try and win a few baskets while supporting a great cause. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door on Saturday night.