Helping Kids Choose Books

By Anastasia Gruper

letter from summer school

We recently had the opportunity to chat with over 300 kids at District 47 summer school about our favorite topic––books.  The LMC was bustling with the buzz of book talks as each student chose two “just right” books for themselves or anyone they thought would like a book. Helping kids choose and then watching as they fell into the flow of reading was a joy for all.

We were excited to receive this thank you note from the students in Mrs. Widdowson, Ms. Lentine, and Mrs. T’s class.  Their shared writing experience was a true gift. Thank you, Mrs. White and Mr. Knoth for allowing us the opportunity to share the love of reading with so many excited readers. Happy Reading Everyone!

Local Summer Outreach & Shipping Success

On June 28th, A to Z Literacy Movement volunteers hosted their annual free book fair for 300 students attending summer school in Crystal Lake. Girls and boys in grades one through eight were able to self-select two books to take home . . . that’s 600 books to enjoy! Yeh!


In addition, we have shipped the last of our four shipments for 2018. One major celebration was sending children’s books to a small library in Pakistan – a new country for us to connect with and support young readers. And while the cost of shipping has increased, we are still deeply committed to getting books into the hands of children around the world.

On July 20th, Betty, Alia, and Mal will head back to Zambia to work with our partner schools, Shine Zambia Reading Academy and School of Hope. Be on the lookout for an email with details of their experiences.

And as always, thank you for continuing to support us and believing in our mission to increase the love of reading everywhere. We could not do this work without YOU!

A Shipment: From Start to Finish

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It all starts with a fundraiser – like dodgeball tournaments at Bernotas Middle School and Hannah Beardsley Middle School in Crystal Lake, Illinois. These fantastic schools hosted their annual A to Z Dodgeball Tournaments to raise funds for the shipping of books.

A to Z volunteers then hit the local libraries (post book sales) to gather free children’s books. (Library books are especially awesome as the sturdy hardcover selection provides a balanced assortment for our recipients.) Once the books are hand-picked, they are then boxed up, addressed, and bagged. Ready for the post office!

At the post office, the patient postal worker, Donna, methodically weighs each box, types in all of the shipping information, and ensures each M-Bag has a customs form attached to the M-Bag tag.   It’s a process . . .  and the line of people behind us usually grows as we work through each box . . . it takes between 30-40 minutes.

post office cart

Today we shipped six boxes of children’s books to a new country – Pakistan. So exciting! Shearyar Arif Jessani found our nonprofit via the internet and requested an A to Z shipment for a small community library.  The little library will serve as a reading room for children in the area and the boys and girls will be able to check library books out as well.

As always, we are so grateful for our supporters who continue to help us meet our goals and live out our mission to increase the love of reading and get books into children’s hands.

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

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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.

Little Treasures Between the Pages

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As one of the book gatherers for A to Z Literacy Movement, I see a great number of books come into our hands. Occasionally the books contain secret treasures, flattish objects that someone who once held the book stored away inside.
Typically, they are bookmarks, but we see other items: a book’s receipt or scraps of paper with notes written on them. We picture a student patiently using the E.Z. Reader strip and see that a miniature ten-spot suitably became a bookmark. Even plastic toys wind up in books as the accompanying picture shows.
We are ever appreciative of our book donors, as we couldn’t do our work without them. And we’re reminded of the tale within the book when something slips out from it’s pages.
By Pat Kelly