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 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.


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.