Last month, my sons experienced the magic of Disney for the first time. The kids were spending their last bit of souvenir money when we hit a bit of a snag. My five year old wanted to spend more money than he had left. Could we afford to get him what he wanted? Yes, but we decided to stick to the limit that we had given him before the vacation.
Like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, a Disney employee suddenly swooped in and said, “Mickey Mouse wants to buy your souvenir.” Alex beamed. The employee proceeded to lead him through the check out line, purchase his toy, and present him with a Mickey Mouse pin and sticker. This small act of kindness is one of the best memories we have from our trip. Shortly after we arrived home, I found myself on the receiving end of an act of kindness. My colleagues at the elementary school at which I had previously worked presented me with a basket of children’s books. Being the book lover that I am, I was excited to unwrap each one. However, when I opened the first book, I found this on the inside. My colleagues couldn’t have given me a better gift. You see… these books aren’t for me; they are for the kids. All of the books were donated to the school library so that kids will continue to have access to engaging, high-quality text. Instead of reaching one reader, they will reach hundreds over time.
This got me thinking about how we can pay it forward with literacy. Below are some ideas that have helped us give the gift of literacy, special acts of kindness.
Laundromat Literacy- Our local reading council places baskets of books in laundromats across town. We include books for both children and adults. No one cares whether those books walk away when the laundry is done. The council maintains and restocks them.
Book Raffles– At the end of the school year, we ask each teacher to donate a book, package it in a gift bag with the name of the book visible, and display them at an annual celebration. Kids purchase raffle tickets for 25 cents each and drop them into the bucket for the book that they want to win. All proceeds go to the PTA, and winners go home with favorite books or books from their favorite teachers. Parents get excellent book ideas, even if their kids don’t win. Book Drives- If your school has more access to books than other schools in your area, consider a book drive. When our population reached 900 students a few years ago, we asked that each student bring a book to donate to show the impact that 900 students could make. The kids far exceeded their goal, and we were able to donate over 3,000 to local elementary schools as well as the Children of Incarcerated Parents Project. This group maintains a lending library in the local detention center so that children can take a book home after visiting their loved ones.
In Memoriam– When my grandmother passed away last year, my colleagues recognized an opportunity to again pay it forward with literacy while honoring her love of reading and educating students. They donated funds which allowed me to purchase new books for our school library. I was able to add new releases by authors such as Katherine Applegate and Jacqueline Woodson to our media center’s circulation, and the book plate in each one communicated that the book was available for students to read, in honor of her love of literacy.
In what other ways can we pay it forward… with literacy? I’d love to hear what others are doing to celebrate literacy. The book is in your court!
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