Celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, Today!

Independent bookstores have been a staple in my life and in the life of so many people I know.  Are they a staple in your life?

For the past twenty years, I have lived in Crystal Lake, IL. When I first moved to Crystal Lake, I found myself driving to Naperville to visit Anderson’s Book Shop. It was a joyous Saturday trip for me and my young daughter, Emma.  As Emma grew, we enjoyed many events at Anderson’s.  One I will always remember was meeting Suzanne Collins.  Emma was a huge fan of The Hunger Games series and Suzanne was her idol.  Over the years, Emma wasn’t the only one to enjoy Anderson’s with me.  My son, Michael, and I have also made the trek. Of course, my friends and I have also ventured to Anderson’s for events. Most recently, I enjoyed my visit with my friends to celebrate John Schu’s This is a School. It brought such joy to our hearts. 

When Read Between the Lynes opened in Woodstock, my access to a local independent bookstore increased and my ability to visit became more frequent.  Just like Becky Anderson, Arlene Lynes brought events to the bookstore that will forever remain a sacred memory for me.  You can only imagine my delight when Abalabix Books opened in Crystal Lake last year.  It has been a joy to visit Diane Sterverson on such a frequent basis and my library is expanding daily!

I don’t only visit independent bookstores near home. I’ve also found myself drawn to independent bookstores while I am vacationing.  My husband, Mike, has grown to accept this habit.  Today, on Independent Bookstore Day, I am on vacation at our cabin in Wisconsin.  I won’t be able to visit Becky, Arlene, or Diane today, but I will make my way to The Shade Tree in Minocqua–my favorite local bookstore up north. 

What are your plans for the day?  Consider finding a local bookstore near you!

Thanks to Anastasia Gruper for today’s blog post.

There’s Something Different In the Air

This week I went to the Cary Public Library post-book sale giveaway for non-profits. You may or may not know, but libraries are an integral part of our mission. Many area libraries have regular book sales from their collections to the public. Afterward, they invite not-for-profit organizations, homeschooling families, preschools, and the like to come and take anything they like from the leftovers. 

Like so many other times when I was browsing the children’s titles, other women and a few kids were there gathering as well. But this time, the spontaneous conversation was friendlier between the folks dropping books into their respective boxes. People inquired what organization I represented. They responded with kind, supportive words when they found out what A to Z Literacy Movement does. One woman wanted our contact information, as she may have some books to offer to us in the future. Later, when another patron accidentally started flipping through the first lady’s pile of books that she’d set aside to take home, the response from the former was kind and understanding rather than competitive, which I have seen at previous book giveaways. “We are in this world together,” said the first. “That is so true,” said the second. 

Another interaction I had with a woman and her child resulted in the woman asking if I could take a donation right then and there. I have never had this happen in my ten-plus years of gathering books for A to Z Literacy. Since I am the treasurer, I happily accepted the $20 bill the woman pulled from her purse because what I told her about our work giving books to children, “spoke to her heart.”

I’m not sure if it is a result of a post-Covid world, a world where Russia is actively attacking Ukraine bringing out our empathy, or if it is something else, but I received more than some fine books that we can pass along to the young generation at the giveaway at Cary Library. I received a reminder that we ARE in this world together. Helping others is something that everyone should do in some kind way at various points in their lives. And even showing an interest in other people’s passions is a stepping stone to greater conversations.

Blog Post by Pat Kelly, A to Z Literacy Movement Treasurer and Book Gatherer

Valuable Local Library Donations

Since I attend a college out of state, I get the privilege of being able to extend the A to Z Literacy Movement beyond Illinois and Zambia, but to Michigan as well.  As a junior at Oakland University, my classes are embedded in elementary schools, and this semester I am placed in the city of Troy. As I have been working in the Troy School District, I have learned so much about the city’s history and learned a lot about schools, libraries, and other important landmarks. Due to the close connection I have with the schools, I reached out to Friends of the Troy Library and they generously donated 9 boxes of books to our organization. These books include chapter books, nonfiction books, dictionaries, workbooks, and much more. The Friends of the Troy Library were kind, supportive, and are excited to continue to donate to our organization. Troy Library is helping us strive towards our mission – the movement to provide literacy for students all over the world. It is because of organizations, like the Friends of the Troy Library, that we are able to provide high-quality children’s books to students all over the world. With these donations, A to Z Literacy Movement continues to improve the literacy lives of students one book at a time.

-Jalisa Cruz

Helping Hands

As the season of giving and thankfulness drifts in this autumn, our non-profit team members reflect on all of the help we have received from people near and far. Truth be told, “It takes many hands to make light work.” And there have been many offering a helping hand.

We have had book donations and drives from clubs, schools and families wanting to assist in getting reading materials to children. We’ve received monetary donations which help to provide college classes for Jonathan Mwale, our sponsored student, and shipping of books overseas. We have people volunteering to help distribute books, donate books they have finished enjoying, host walkathons and CrAtoZy Sock Days just to name a few opportunities.

There have been so many selfless acts of kindness which have spread out like ripples in a pond. We thank the multitudes and welcome you if you are reading this and wondering where you, your organization, or your family might fit in. Visit our website and click on the “Donate” tab. You will find all kinds of suggestions for easily making a difference in a child’s life.

Meet Wren: Guest Blogger and Girl Scout

Hello! My name is Wren Raviolo. I’m a sophomore at Cary Grove High School and a member of Girl Scout Troop 968. I’ve been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way. I’ve earned my Bronze, Silver, Service to Girl Scouts, Community Service, and Presidential awards; all of which are the highest a Scout at my age can earn, other than Gold. I’ve done so many amazing, cool, and crazy things that I wouldn’t have been able to without Girl Scouts. I’ve learned so many essential life skills and I truly wouldn’t be the same without them.

When I was a middle school student, I was often known by my peers and teachers for being incredibly passionate about English, poetry, and literature. I’ve always had a love for reading, and I want to spread that positivity to anyone I can. My mom is good family friends with Mrs. Hatfield, one of the volunteers for the A to Z Literacy Movement and she told me all about it. Of course I wanted to get involved,
and I did just that. Mrs. Hatfield had dozens upon dozens of children’s books waiting to be distributed locally or shipped to Zambia where A to Z sends books most often. Due to the worldwide pandemic, the Movement was unable to send books to underserved children, so that’s where my job came in.

I volunteered to spread the word of A to Z and donate as many books as possible in our local McHenry County area. First, we had to load up the books into boxes to be brought to my house. Then, I had to design stickers with A to Z’s logo, website, and their story on them, to be placed on the books’ covers. Once the books all had stickers on them, my mom and I loaded them into our car and started to drive. We planned to go to every Little Free Library within 10 miles of our hometown and leave one book in each. We did this so that people will see the stickers, get a free book, know where the books came from and spread the word of A to Z’s mission.

How to Write a Story–A Book Review

In a recent Horn Book article, Kate Messner offers five tips to get kids writing.  I’d like to offer a sixth: read aloud How to Write a Story by Kate Messner to a child. It will offer joy and excitement to the writing process. 

In this picture book beautifully illustrated by Mark Siegel, Kate offers step by step directions to write a story. She begins with searching for an idea.  As writers, we know ideas are everywhere.  We collect them in writing notebooks and save them for the moment we know we must write about them. Through the illustrations and words, Mark and Kate bring the process of collecting ideas to life.

In the remaining steps, Kate gives tips on how to develop setting, characters, and plot.  She delves into the introduction and organization of the story. She encourages writing a draft and returning for revision after the story has had time to “blossom and grow.” Kate concludes with what to do with a story when it is finished–– share it with friends.

If you’re looking for a way to spend an afternoon, read aloud How to Write a Story to a child.  Be sure to have a writing notebook and writing utensil on hand for you and the child. You won’t be able to resist the urge to write!

~Dr. Anastasia Gruper, A to Z Board Member & Contributing Writer

“A Pilgrim, True of Heart”

Master storytellers have the power to transport a reader to another time and place––to help readers lose themselves in the story and challenge their thinking long after the story ends.  During the “Stay at Home” orders my heart called for a master storyteller. Pam Muñoz Ryan answered the call. In her newest masterpiece Mañanaland, I was lost in the land of Santa Maria on a quest with Maximiliano Córdoba of “somewhere in the Americas, many years after once-upon-a-time and long before happily-ever-after.” 

In this beautifully crafted tale set in yesterday, today, and tomorrow, I was immediately drawn to Max–– the motherless boy seeking a birth certificate to play on the Santa Maria fútbol team.  When Papá leaves to resolve the issue, Buelo shares some insight. Max takes it upon himself to search for answers.  Through his quest, he uncovers the secrets of his family and reveals he is true of heart.  Even now (long after the story has ended) I am pondering how to be “A pilgrim, true of heart” who escorts people who are fleeing from danger to Mañanaland.

(Blog post written by A to Z board member Dr. Anastasia Gruper)

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.

Crystal Lake Central Juniors Creating *Books in Bags*

A to Z Literacy Movement is grateful to Mrs. Welder’s English class of Crystal Lake Central juniors for once again taking on the wonderful project of *Books in Bags*. Each CLC student chooses a fiction or nonfiction picture book and practices reading and rereading the book aloud. The students then head to the school library to record their reading with Mrs. Nelson, Crystal Lake Central’s librarian.  Once the recording is complete, the students create a short comprehension check and discussion guide with questions and prompts to be answered or discussed by students in our Zambian partner schools. The *Books in Bags* are a fantastic asset to any classroom or library listening station, and we are really excited about this year’s selection of picture books. Thank you so much to the teachers and students involved in this literacy project!

A Few Words From Vineet Bhatnagar, Founder of Shine Zambia Reading Academy

“Having worked with A to Z Literacy since building our literacy school, Shine Zambia Reading Academy in 2009, I know personally how much their help has contributed to the success of our school.  Not just support through financial sponsorship of teachers’ allowances and pupil lunches, or through books donated and shipped to Zambia to stock our school library, but in the training provided to our teachers.  This training has been given by Mal and various volunteers who have sacrificed their time to work with our teachers for around a week almost every summer for the past 5 years.

I wanted to find out first hand how A to Z and its visits to our school over the years have impacted our teachers, so I asked them.  Upon my request, our teachers had a meeting to discuss it and wrote back to me with feedback.  The teachers unanimously agreed that they had all been greatly impacted by the A to Z training sessions and feel their teaching style has improved.  They specifically mentioned the strategies they were taught for reading with pupils, improving pupil writing skills and conducting group discussions in class.  Here’s a quote from our Head Teacher, David Mulenga, about writing strategies: “We were particularly astounded at how well our own Year 2 pupils were able to write, all by themselves. We learned this particularly from Dave. He would show them a picture card and ask them to say what they can see from it and he wrote those things on the blackboard. He would then ask the pupils to write their own stories about any of those things written on the board. Wow!  It was amazing to see the ideas that came from the children!”

We truly appreciate A to Z Literacy’s guidance over the years in making our literacy program even stronger and we hope to continue working in partnership for many years to come.” – Vineet Bhatnagar

**********************************************************

Without you, we would not be able to meet our goals of promoting literacy to students in Zambia and providing professional development to teachers where the need is substantial. Thank you for understanding the mission of global literacy and the importance of reading.

Yes, I wish to make a special year-end gift to help get books into the hands of children who want read. (click here)

A to Z Literacy Movement, Inc is a non-profit 501c3 organization. Your tax-deductible contribution will help promote literacy and increase the love of reading for children living in poverty-stricken areas.