Happy almost advent! Today is Giving Tuesday, so I wanted to send out a huge THANK YOU to all of you who have given this month to the Holiday Picture Book Drive.
Thanks to your overwhelming generosity, we have collected more than 350 new picture books for Leading with Literacy, a read-aloud focused non-profit based in Bronzeville, a neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. (The books will be delivered mid-December... can't wait!!)
The Holiday Picture Book Drive has commemorated National Picture Book Month. November isn't over... so that means there is still time to spread CHEER by making a donation this Giving Tuesday - if you're able!
Would you like to learn a bit more about Leading with Literacy? Here's a touching Q&A with the organization's founder, Pastor Michael Neal:
Q&A with Pastor Michael Neal
Why is literacy, and building scholars, so near and dear to your heart?
Literacy is important to me because I see the connection between literacy and living an abundant and quality-filled life. While volunteering through Leading with Literacy, the systemic and generational challenges placed on those who don’t have a love for reading has become even more clear to me. Serving also has allowed me to tap into my childhood and my passion for reading as a child and a young adult. I want kids to develop that same passion as well.
What are the unique benefits of male volunteers reading in the classroom?
Having males volunteer for the weekly read aloud often fills a void within the schools, as there are seldom any male teachers in the classroom. It also helps to indirectly fill a void in the life of some children who may not have a consistent male figure in their home.
How do you decide what book is read?
Volunteers often allow the teacher and/or students to pick the book. Sometimes the teacher may be working on a certain subject matter, and we never want to disrupt that. When the student selects the book, I often will do an interview with the student in front of the class, asking why the book was selected. Lastly, each male volunteer in the class can bring a book in to read, provided it is okay with the teacher.
What are some of the books that the kids have loved?
Favorite titles have been Tar Beach, all Ezra Jack Keats books, and anything related to superheroes.
What relationships have developed between volunteers and classrooms?
Wonderful relationships and partnerships have developed between teachers, readers and administration. Where there has been consistency, there has been a culture of literacy that has followed the children from early grades through middle school.
Can you share a story of a rewarding moment you've experienced, since starting the program?
Boy there are so many… 1) One child saw me during the summer at a youth program, and when another child asked who I was, she said, “That's our reading coach." 2) A little boy saw me at Target and yelled out my name as if he saw a superstar athlete, then he spent the rest of the year reminding other kids that he saw me at Target. 3) A little boy brought a newspaper to school after I told him how I learned to read by reading the sports section.
What are your goals for Leading with Literacy?
Our goal is to Build Scholars One Book at a Time. We also have a goal to make our program sustainable and replicable. It is our desire to continue to see improvements in reading outcomes. Our research has shown that where a male reader was consistent in a classroom, reading scores were 20 to 40 percent higher than classrooms that did not have a male reader.
What can others do to support your work?
There are various ways. 1) Sharing who we are and what we do. 2) Recruiting men with flexible work schedules, who are able to invest 15-30 minutes in a school once a week. 3) New or gently used book donations for distribution to children in class and in the community. 4) Financial contributions are welcome, as well.
To make a donation to the Holiday Picture Book Drive for Leading with Literacy, visit my initial book drive post, for info. There, you'll also find the cover of every book donated so far. Thanks for spending your time here, this Giving Tuesday!