Where I Come From

Where I come from, it’s a unique opportunity for one to make it to the university level because of how hard and expensive it is to get there. I’m one of the very few people to make it to the university in my family and my community. In that regard, many of my family and friends ask me about my experiences and stories at school. This gives me the sense that I represent them there. I love how during my study break and exam period, my mom and friends call to check and see if I’m awake and studying or to wake me up or tell me to rest. This tells me that a lot of people around me are part of this journey. And when my school days are hard, they give me the extra fuel to see me through to the next day. I am so lucky to have this atmosphere of people around me and I feel so responsible. I believe my joy is their joy.

In that regard, before I make a decision, I think about what my A to Z Literacy Movement family, my mom, and everyone else would say or feel, knowing that what I am deciding doesn’t only affect me but everyone who tirelessly works hard to make sure I’m in school. I’m honored to be at the University of Lusaka, one of the best universities in Zambia. Thank you, everyone, for making my dream a reality. I am grateful to be a Bachelor of Medicine student finishing my first year with success. For that, I thank you for all the support and I will continue to give it my all just as you have given me everything.

(Thank you, Jonathan Mwale, for this week’s blog post. We are so proud of his dedication to not only change his life but to make a positive impact within his family and community.)

One Child Big Impact

For many of our supporters, Jonathan Mwale is a familiar name within our nonprofit. A to Z Literacy Movement has been financially supporting and mentoring Jonathan’s academic career since 2013. Over the years, Jonathan has continued to demonstrate high academic commitment and achievement. Equally important, he has exhibited incredible responsibility as the head of his family’s household after his father was tragically killed in 2017.  

As a college student in Zambia, Jonathan continues to progress in his studies at the University of Lusaka. Some of you may remember that he started his college career at Mulengushi University, but after careful consideration of courses within his major, he made the decision to transfer. This fall, his course load includes Medical Ethics, Biochemistry, and Medical History. 

When he is not studying, Jonathan works a part-time job at a takeaway restaurant outside of Lusaka. He enjoys his job, but more importantly, supports his mother, sister, and brother providing money for food, electricity, and other necessities.

A to Z has made the commitment to support Jonathan and see one child all the way through college. We have also made the commitment to support his family with their $150 monthly rent expense because as the oldest male in the house, this cost is Jonathan’s responsibility. 

Your support has propelled our work forward and we thank you for your generosity over the last 12 years. Now, as we prepare to send Jonathan back to college, we ask that you consider making a small donation on behalf of his college fund and family expenses. Please head to our website to donate. Thank you for not only helping us to change the course of this young man’s life but the lives of his family and community as well. 

Reflecting on Professional Learning in Zambia

As the 2016-17 school year began last week, I spent some time reflecting on the summer months along with A to Z’s work in Zambia this past June. A wonderful memory that continues to linger in my mind is our day of professional development with 150 Zambian teachers at School of Hope.

Teachers from all over the area came together to learn and grow; men and women wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students. Dave, Betty and I provided teachers with opportunities to attend sessions on reading, writing, asking questions, and literacy in content areas. There was something for everyone.

Without a doubt, I am confident that A to Z is continuing to impact the lives of Zambian students and teachers. Although our nonprofit is small, our educational impact is large.  By providing valuable support, we have increased literacy levels and the love of reading within schools and communities.

Faces of Zambia


As the A to Z team has been reflecting on our recent visits to Shine Zambia Reading Academy and School of Hope, I thought a blog of photos would be fun to share. We are extremely grateful to you, our supporters, and without you, our work in Zambia would not be possible. Thank you for believing in our mission and thank you for your continued support of helping to increase literacy levels in impoverished communities.




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.

A New School Year!

By Betty Trummel

Jimmy and mum

We got word from our Lusaka Rotary Club contact, Masautso, that he was able to meet with some of the students A to Z is sponsoring and help them arrange their school fees for the new year.  Being in the southern hemisphere means that a new school year begins in January or February.

As I think about the start of my school year back in August here in Illinois, I’m thinking of kids with new shoes, maybe some new clothes, school supplies, and the excitement of a well-decorated elementary classroom filled with books and bulletin boards and lots and lots of resources.  That is not the reality for many children around the world.

The students we sponsor are given the gift of a year of schooling, at what we would consider a relatively small price. Leftover funds can be used for basic school supplies or school uniform.  Children we sponsor show great excitement and gratitude for being given this chance to continue learning.

Jimmy, the student my husband and I chose to sponsor, is 17 years old and is entering the 10th grade.  He would like to complete his secondary schooling and attend a university.  He’s interested in possibly following a path to medicine in the future.  He’s a quiet young man, and very serious about his schoolwork and exams.

When our A to Z Literacy Movement team worked at Shine Zambia Reading Academy last June, Jimmy and other former Shine students came by each day to meet with us.  They are eager for us to keep teaching them, and they took great pride in sharing their notebooks and work with our team.  I am happy that my family can assist Jimmy with school fees, basic supplies, and uniforms.

In Jimmy’s words:  “I want to say thanks for everything that you have done for us/me, cause you have taught me a lot of things and I believe you are still going to teach me more.  I have seen a huge thing in you guys…just to come and help us, for there are few people who do this that you are doing.  I have seen a lot of passion in you and you have a caring and loving heart.  What you are doing shows a lot of kindness.”

Math Textbooks are Making Their Way to Zambia

By Pat Kelly


The load of a half ton of math textbooks I was transporting made my SUV handle a lot differently. I was light in the front end and needed to allow more time for braking. On top of that, it was rush hour on the expressway and a rush job to get the books back to Crystal Lake, address the boxes and get them to the post office pronto.

Flashback to Zambia, June of this year.

When visiting the School of Hope, our friend and headmistress of the school Kathleen told us they needed math textbooks. To make it easier for us, there was a shipping container leaving Delaware in August which would bring a multitude of goods to the village and school. If we could locate and gather math books and send them to Delaware versus Zambia, that would be much kinder to A to Z Literacy’s checkbook.

Well, as luck would have it, we asked and Follett School Solutions delivered. Jean B., a friend of A to Z, knows a guy, who put us onto a gal, who through Follett was able to donate about a half ton of math textbooks.


Time was of the essence though, and within a couple days, the heavy boxes of books needed to be picked up from Woodridge, IL, labeled and shipped at the Crystal Lake Post Office. The container was leaving in a week and we gambled on shipping the goods media mail- a slower, more economical method. During a nail biting week, we waited for email confirmation the books had arrived on time. After urging our friends on the receiving end to check the post office and around the church premises (the location of the container), the books turned up at the eleventh hour! Whew!

Now they are en route to Zambia, waiting to deliver their knowledge to eager youngsters. Was it ever worth the hustle.



By Mal Keenan
One reading activity I love to use in the classroom is 3-2-1. This quick formative assessment for determining importance works well as an exit slip in whole group and small group instruction.
Students are asked to write down three important facts/ideas, two key words, and one memorable sentence directly from the text.
3-2-1 was new to the students at School of Hope in Zambia. The 8th graders did a fantastic job reading a short article about Nelson Mandela and then a few pairs were brave enough to present to the rest of the class.



Meeting Mr. Mwale

By Mal Keenan

I had the great privilege of meeting Mr. Mwale, Jonathan’s dad, while working at Shine Zambia in June. As many of you know, the A to Z Literacy team has been keeping tabs on Jonathan as he has progressed through school. Now in grade 10, A to Z is providing the funds needed for Jonathan to attend Munali Secondary School for Boys.

Mr. Mwale wanted to meet face to face to thank us personally and express his deepest gratitude. As he spoke, Jonathan sat quietly, head down, listening, respecting his father. I was moved by watching the two of them, so when I began to respond to Mr. Mwale, tears poured out instead of words.

Trying to pull myself together, I explained that even on my hardest day in Crystal Lake, Illinois, my roughest moments, nothing compares to their days in Zambia. Life is so much more difficult.

Telling Mr. Mwale that we believe in his son, that we are inspired by Jonathan, motivated by him, and trust him, was the highlight of my day.

Beacons of Light

By Pat Kelly


Here in the slums of Ibex Hill, Kalikiliki and Mtendere, where “Poverty” is your middle name and “no way out” rides in your back pocket, there is a place.

It’s a place where discipline and respect abound, where children summon all they can to come to school and work diligently for nearly six hours on empty stomachs.

Teachers are miracle workers creating something out of virtually nothing. They carry to each class some tattered textbooks, a piece of chalk and a plan.

From that plan, fires are ignited and sparks fly, carrying off into the air children’s wishes for a career, repayment to families for their support and service to others in Zambia. That’s the focus of Shine Zambia Reading academy- allowing impoverished youngsters to shine to their best ability.