Years ago, I had a great student who happened to be the mother of a two year-old. One day, I asked her, like a good English teacher, what she was reading to her child. She smiled at me, and replied that her baby was too young to understand. Reading would come later.
I then upshifted the conversation into parent-to-parent gear and told her how my wife and I gathered baby books when our children were still in the womb. We lost no time reading to them every day, not long after they were born. I explained how my daughter, at barely two-years old was able to read Goodnight Moon and God's Paintbrush to us, and how our relatives and friends started reading to their tykes from the get-go. Impressed, my student nevertheless shook her head and said, "Mr. Abrams, we don't do that in my culture."
And thus was planted the seed for the movement that will get more babies and toddlers reading in Lindenwold. I want to do whatever it takes to get baby-board books in chubby little hands and to instruct parents about how consistently reading to pre-K kids makes sense on so many levels. First and formost, babies need books nearby - lots of them!
Last September, I stopped thinking about it, and posted a flier around my synagogue, telling parents that I was collecting "newish" early readers and picture books. "Don't donate the books your kids have outgrown to the library," I said. "Give them to me, and I will get them to the right kids!"
The response was incredibly generous! Over the next couple weeks, I loaded dozens of carboard boxes and bags stuffed with quality books into my car, drove them to school, and stored them all over my room.
Hispanic Heritage night came in October, and books went! And then more donated books came in. Later in December, LHS hosted Breakfast with Santa, and about a dozen students helped me distribute books as presents for the dozens of children who came to see Saint Nick.
The final success of the year came a week before winter break. Each day, I jammed more "product" on a small black bookshelf with wheels, and parked it in front of the main office where everbody could see it. "Instant X-mas Presents" read the sign. Books flew off! And then Ms. Locasale's ESL students got in on the act, and a couple hundred more books found new homes before Christmas.
I estimate that one thousand books have so far made their way into the homes of our Lindenwold students. Any ideas of how to take this to the next level?
How can we take it to the point where EVERY Lindenwold child has a library of their own?