A Final Reflection – Remembering A Decade In The Books

By Betty Trummel

Last year, 2018, as we started to look back at a decade of A to Z Literacy Movement we realized just how much of an impact we had had both locally and globally.  It’s often important to look “back to the future.”  Looking back gives us perspective and focus on how to move forward.  The future of A to Z Literacy looks very bright indeed!

Our Board, local students and supporters and volunteers have become woven into the fabric of our mighty little nonprofit!  Annual events are established, and so many people have FUN while raising money to get books into the hands of vulnerable children in McHenry County, other local areas, and around the world.



Whether it’s fundraisers such as “Libations for Literacy,” dodgeball tournaments at the District #47 local middle schools OR fiction/nonfiction “books in a bag” created by Crystal Lake AVID students or those at Monomoy High School in Harwich, Massachusetts, or the Christmas book drive at Good Shepherd Hospital…so many people help us reach our goals.  It takes a village…and thankfully our “village” continues to expand each year.



Maybe you can become a part of our village by volunteering to gather and sort books, help with a fundraiser, assist in giving away books at the free book fair at “The Clinic” at Immanuel Lutheran Church or District #47 Summer School book fair we host each year.  Maybe YOU have a great idea for our next successful fundraiser!  We can always use your help.



This year our five shipments of books (remember each shipment has SIX boxes of books!) were sent to Zambian schools in both the northern and southern provinces of the country, a first time shipment to a small library in Pakistan, and to two different Peace Corps volunteers working in Zambia…one from Crystal Lake (the home base of A to Z Literacy).




One of the highlights for me personally was traveling to Zambia for the fourth time to work with our partner schools – Shine Zambia Reading Academy, where I spent the majority of my time in central Lusaka, the capital of Zambia; and School of Hope, where Mal and fellow teaching colleague Ali Hammerstone concentrated their efforts in a more rural area where we have a deep connection to both the School of Hope and Village of Hope (an orphan village).



The three of us helped to provide professional development sessions at School of Hope’s inservice/workshop day with over 200 Zambian educators present.  What a powerful way to make a difference…truly inspirational to be a part of and witness.



We have been blessed with the opportunity to help others, but gain so much for ourselves…an appreciation for education around the world, the compassion of teachers in challenging circumstances, and the commitment to students and also their own professional learning.  WOW!


As we’ve already moved into 2019 … the wheels are spinning.  New projects are forming.  Your donations matter and go directly toward our mission.  We appreciate YOU, our supporters, our sponsors, and our friends in literacy.  Thank you so very much for choosing to walk this path with us!









And The Beat Goes On – Remembering A Decade in the Books


By Betty Trummel

In 2016, A to Z Literacy Movement had a busy year!  The first few months of the year was a flurry of local activity with students leading the way on many of the key initiatives.  Even at our 3rd annual Trivia Night fundraiser at Park Place in Crystal Lake, local high school students played a part in hosting the evening.

In March a unique event was held at Betty’s house, with her former 4th grade students stealing the show with “There’s Music in the House.”  Their musical performances raised hundreds of dollars for spring shipments of books.


April dodgeball tournaments at both Bernotas and Hannah Beardsley Middle Schools raised $2,100 for A to Z Literacy Movement.




Just before school ended for the year, Crystal Lake Central AVID students created “Paired Texts – Books in a Bag” projects for students at School of Hope. These colorful and lively books and stuffed animals were sure to be a hit.


When school was out in June, it meant it was time to travel to Zambia to provide professional development for Zambian educators.  While Betty stayed in the capital city of Lusaka and concentrated on Shine Zambia Reading Academy, Mal and Dave served at the rural School of Hope.



The three of them came together to help provide a professional development workshop at School of Hope that supported over 150 Zambian educators.


Their time in Zambia was rewarding and brought such positive outcomes for both students and teachers in challenging school situations.  Our work continued to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable students in Zambia.



But wait…our work wasn’t only focused on Zambia.  In July a free book fair was held for District #47 Summer School students at Glacier Ridge Elementary School in Crystal Lake.  Another free book fair for over 100 students in grades 1-5 took place Coventry Elementary School.



And, later in the fall A to Z Literacywas also on hand at the Immanuel Lutheran Clinic to hand out books to children and families.  Our outreach to local families was strong!


A fall fundraiser at the Crystal Lake Brewery raised funds for a shipment of books to be sent to the Philippines.


Later in the fall we hosted the “A to Z Hunger Bowl” fundraiser at Metro Bowl in Crystal Lake.  Money raised at this even benefitted the Shine Zambia Reading Academy school lunch program.



Once again, we ended our year with a successful Christmas Book Drive at Good Shepherd Hospital.  2016 was a great year for A to Z Literacy Movement.

Highlights of 2017 included a lot of local outreach and fundraising…again with students often in the lead.

** February: “Libations for Literacy” fundraiser was held at Park Place.


** March: South Elementary School in Crystal Lake raised $1,200 for A to Z during their “Coins for a Cause” fundraiser.

** Dodgeball Tournaments at Bernotas and Hannah Beardsley Middle Schools raised over $3,000 for A to Z Literacy Movement.


** May:  Crystal Lake Central AVID students created “Paired Texts—Books in a Bag” for students at School of Hope.


** July:  Free book fair at Glacier Ridge for 300 students attending District #47 Summer School



** October: Our free book fair was a success at “The Clinic” at Immanuel Lutheran Church.


In July Mal traveled to Zambia to continue our mission at School of Hope, which is part of All Kids Can Learn International.  Her relationship with the educators at this school continued to grow, and also the connection with Jonathan Mwale, our scholarship student stayed strong.  It’s wonderful to see the growth of students and teachers over a longer period of time, and we believe that these deeper relationships and connections make us unique.  A to Z strives to foster collaboration and give teachers in Zambia the tools they need to be better teachers.


Since Betty had now moved to Cape Cod, she started to grown A to Z’s “East Coast Connection.” She organized a partnership with Harwich Elementary School in her new hometown in Massachusetts and linked with The Family Pantry of Cape Cod. Harwich Elementary hosted a book drive and the results were fantastic.


  • 1,200 books were collected and donated.
  • 300 new books were placed in holiday gift bags and given out at The Family Pantry.
  • Over 900 books went into the Family Pantry “boutique” which benefits those visiting the Family Pantry
  • 35 nonfiction books were saved to bring to Shine Zambia in 2018.


December brought a lot of holiday cheer and our annual Christmas book drive at Good Shepherd Hospital that once again brought in many book donations for our shipments.


Donations to A to Z are what keeps us going!

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.