The Gift of Reading

By Mal Keenan


Are you giving a good book to someone on your gift list this year?

Books can be enlightening and exciting.


They move you.

Change you.

Affirm you.

Books act like windows to better understand other people’s lives,

Helping the reader to become more empathetic of others.

Books can also act as mirrors,

To help us see ourselves more clearly in the larger human experience.

Books encourage us to think more deeply about the world around us.

Perhaps you might consider giving a book (or two) as a gift this holiday season?

Blog inspired by the work of Rudine Sims Bishop (1990)

You Need to Read

By Pat Kelly

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Yes, you hear it from time to time, however, now research even backs it up. Reading as little as a half an hour a day will impact your longevity significantly in a positive manner. Becca Levy, Yale professor of epidemiology, led a study which supported that a benefit of reading, and not just any reading, but the reading of books, grants an individual a “significant survival advantage” over those who don’t.

This is powerful information! The researcher reports that by spending as little as 30 minutes a day with your nose in a book, you can increase your life as much as two years compared to someone who is not a reader. And indications are longer periods of reading per day are better. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor; encourage time spent off electronics and on page turning!

Smiles, Everyone! Smile.


Doing some holiday shopping online instead of in store? Did you know your purchases can make a difference? At no additional cost to you, Amazon Smile donates a small percentage to A to Z Literacy Movement when you make purchases through their website . . . and it works with Prime customers, too. 

Here is the Amazon Smile link to get started on your holiday shopping.

To date, A to Z Literacy Movement has received over $200 in donations through generous Amazon shoppers! Thank you! Thank you!



Surrounded By Books


By Alia Hammerstone

One of the most vivid, tangible memories I have as a child is growing up surrounded by books. They were omnipresent- lining the bookshelves in my grandparent’s home, stacked on my desk as a child, crowding dressers in my parent’s bedroom. My grandparents loved nonfiction; scores of their books were political in nature and introduced me to the 1960s and the founding fathers. My mother loves fiction; historical fiction, fantasy, mystery- you name it. Book fairs were a treasured event as a student and were supported with enthusiasm by my parents. I remember book logs with fondness- they marked not only my voracious appetite for reading but a collection of conversations I had with my parents and teachers alike.

Growing up, my mother encouraged my siblings and me to read and lead by example. Despite our age difference, I remember curling up in our family room with my three younger siblings and her reading aloud to us. We sat, transfixed, as she read the series to us- I must have been almost a senior in high school sitting side-by-side with my younger siblings enamored with the story, and my mother’s love of literature. We spent hours together as a family, listening to the stories and building lifelong memories.

One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember being in sixth grade, and my mother recommended it to me- it was, after all, one of her favorites, too. I have that same book still; the corners are a bit bent and torn, and the name on the inside cover reflects my middle-school scrawl. The beginning of the novel drew me in from the first page- who was this rapscallion of a girl who romped around town with her brother and friend? What fountain of dignity did her father draw from? Who were these people with unique names and circumstances? Atticus inspired me with his unflappable conscious; he stood as a fictional figure who guided my thoughts on social justice. Scout inspired me with her courage and curiosity; she stood as a fictional figure who guided my thoughts on what family and friendship truly mean. Honestly, I think my passion for equality and a more just world stems from my early experiences with injustices solely brought to my attention through the lens of Harper Lee. To this day, I reread the novel from time to time, savoring in the storyline and learning something new each time. A favorite book is like an old, familiar friend- one you can reminisce with as well as grow with over time.

Flash forward to the present – where I have books lining the shelves of my home, stacked on my desk at work, and crowding dressers in my own bedroom. There are books I received as gifts, carefully inscribed, books I have inherited from family, books I have swapped with friends, and even books I have stored away for my own children someday. I know that my family’s love of literature has indelibly shaped my own passion, and inspires me to continue working with A to Z in spreading the joy of reading.

With Just Two Suitcases

By Mal Keenan


A few weeks back, I had the honor of talking with parents and students during conferences at my school just outside of Chicago, IL. Although the time went by way too quickly, families were able to hear a bit about the students’ current performance and academic aspirations for the school year. However, what impressed me the most were the families who have recently come to this country, leaving everything they are familiar with—friends, family, jobs, and homes. Why? Education. Yes, education. These families value education in such a way that they were willing to leave their countries and start anew in the United States.

A mother from Turkey shared with me that her family left everything behind so that their two young sons could attend American schools. With just two suitcases each, the family of four arrived in the states with little English knowledge, but loads of courage to brave this new place. Another mother explained to me that she and her husband had applied for their visas fifteen years ago—long before their 5th-grade son was born. They wanted a better life in the US and feel so grateful for the teachers at my school. Truly, I was amazed at how these mothers and fathers put their trust in American teachers and value the opportunities provided in the public schools.

As each conference came to a close, I made a simple request—to please continue speaking, reading, and writing in the home language—their first language. I explained that in order to build English literacy skills, the home language must also play a significant part of the student’s life. I encouraged parents to keep telling stories, to share and discuss parts of their day, and to read in the home language so that their first language is not only valued but kept alive for these children.



Students Giving Back to Other Students…

By Betty Trummel

Early in 2018, I spoke with members of the National Honor Society at Monomoy Regional High School (here in Harwich, Massachusetts) about A to Z Literacy Movement. Students listened carefully and learned about ways they might get involved and do some sort of service project for, or related to, A to Z Literacy.

I hadn’t heard back from them in a while, until months later I received an email from the sponsor, indicating that their project was ready for pickup. I was really excited to see what they had chosen to do as their service project.


The NHS students had worked in pairs to create 20 “books in a bag” for me to bring to students and teachers on my next trip to Zambia. Each book is accompanied by a stuffed animal that matches the theme of the book and has a CD with the NHS students reading the book aloud. 


How exciting and fun it will be for Zambian students to have the option of reading/listening to a special new story while holding a stuffed toy. And, listening to someone read a book out loud is always a great model for students. 


I love seeing ways students can reach out to other students. Everyone learns and benefits in this process.  Thanks Monomoy Regional High School NHS! Your contributions are much appreciated!!

Finding That Perfect New Book

By Betty Trummel

The excitement of finding a new book…that’s what I wish for all of you out there! Browsing through a library, bookstore, online, or anywhere you find your books can be super fun. When you see that special new selection that interests you, you can’t wait to get started.  


Today I found a perfect book for our 5-year old granddaughter. Of course it’s got a nature connection, since not only do children love animals, but so do I.  And, we have a special relationship with bears living near our cabin in Colorado. Ella will make that link when reading this story.


The pictures and story in “Bear Hug” are very welcoming, like a new surprise on each page. I can’t wait to read this book with Ella. 



Opening a new book brings a treasure to our eyes and mind. Remember, reading opens doors.  What new door will open for you soon when you select your next book?