Overall, the project didn't go as I planned, but I did learn from it. For one, I realized how much work it takes to make a charity project succeed. To make this project be what I dreamed it, I would have needed to put in far more hours than I did.
As it is, the project operated on a small scale -- smaller than I had planned. Primarily, I just read aloud to kids. However, that doesn't mark it as a failure. Providing kids with individual attention, showing them they are cared for can do a world of good. Furthermore, I'm still going to send Mrs. Bryson's books to DSS. I'll gift wrap them and present them as "welcome to summer" presents. Mr. Norris gave me a few as well, after he heard my presentation. He said to stop by again and he'll have more to give me.
I plan to continue doing work in this vein. "Books for Kids" is finished, but my encouraging kids to read is not. With my present job, and my future degree, I think I can work throughout my life to help children realize the power and freedom contained within the pages of books. This project was only a stepping stone in that journey.
The project isn't going as well as I hoped it would. Perhaps that is do to my being distracted. Perhaps the project has been doomed from the start.
The main problem is that hardly anyone has donated books. The has library been heavily advertising, but to no avail. The only books I have to give to kids are my own and the ones Mrs Bryson gave me at the beginning of the school year. Most of these are not picture books. I think I'll give the majority of them to older children in the hospital.
With the younger kids, I'm going to continue focusing on reading aloud. Both my AP classes are finished, so I have time during the school day to walk over to Fairview and continue volunteering. That's been my favorite part of the whole process.
We have to do research, as well. I did a project on this same subject last year; I plan to reuse many of my sources. I'd like to delve deeper into statistical evidence. I think I can find a lot of evidence to support how important reading is to childhood development.
I've began reading to kids. Over spring break, I read with some of the children who were at the Hub with Meridian. I can't tell if they enjoyed it or not. I had fun, though. We went to the library to select books and the kids were really excited. I look forward to returning once I've received donations. I think they'll be really excited to choose their own books and get to keep them.
Yesterday and the day before, I walked over to Fairview during fourth period and read to children in Ms. Whitney's and Ms. Sherry's classes.
On Tuesday, the first child was quiet, but he confidently selected which books he wanted to read. The first two books were about dinosaurs; the third, Monster trucks; the last, ninjas. At one point, he told me "he liked the sword" the ninja was holding. It was one of the only comments he made without my prompting him. Most of the time he just nodded when I asked him questions. His clothes smelled of cigarette smoke. The second child, Brianna, told me that "Sometimes I like Pete the Cat books." She was much more talkative than the boy. Half the time we read, but half the time we sat on the rocking chair and she told me stories. I learned she doesn't like lemons or the book Pinkalicious. I asked her if she liked reading; she told me she'd rather read than play in the playground. "I'm learning how to read," she told me. "When I try to read a book and somebody talks I mess up." At first I read to her, but once we finished the first book, she grabbed a Doctor Seuss book called Hop On Pop. She didn't read very well; she sounded out each letter correctly, but then incorrectly guessed what the word was. She spelled out "c-u-p" but then said "is."
I went to Ms. Sherry's class Wednesday. The first boy I read with had no front teeth, but spoke clearly. He read two books to me, following along the words with his finger. The word "take" kept tripping him up. "Oh! I got stuck again," he'd exclaim. The next boy was named Grayson. He began by saying, "I'm not a good reader." I read the books to him. As I read, he repeated the words out loud. He had lots of questions. "Who else are you going to read with? Who was this book made by? What does this say?" Though he didn't know many of the written words, he made in-depth inferences from the pictures. We read a book about a cloud. Though the text did not say so, he told me the cloud was sad because it was smaller than everyone. It wanted to make new friends and not be bullied by the big clouds. "Little cloud is lonely. No one is his size." "Do you think people can be different and still get along?" I asked. "Yes," he nodded. He told me that little cloud needed a playmate. Looking at an illustration of a village, he explained that the chimneys made small clouds. We talked about the "cloud factory" in downtown Sylva (the paper mill). After we read both books, he ran around showing me his impersonations of the different scenes. Then he enacted a complex story he made up about a pirate. The last girl didn't say a single word throughout our entire interaction. Her teacher said she was shy around strangers. At one point, however, she pointed to a ladybug on the page. I think she was saying she liked it, but I'm not sure.
Though I check last weekend, the library still hasn't had any books donated. I hope they'll start rolling in soon. Chris said I could use the ARCs at City Lights. If I remember, I'll pick some up at work tomorrow. I need to print out flyers to hang at other places around town.
It's exciting to work on this project. The read-aloud sessions probably won't have a lasting impact on any of these kids, but it can help them learn to enjoy reading. If they learn to love words, then they will have the ability to learn anything the world has to offer.
I met with Michelle Stephens and Stephanie Bowman at the library on Tuesday. They helped me sort out some details of the project. I've started making the flyer; later today I'll email it to them for help. I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to graphic design.
Talking to them, we came up with two other places to read/donate to (besides the elementary schools): the HUB and the hospital. Stephanie emailed Lindsey Button at the HUB to help set up the plans. Later today, I'll be messaging her myself. Hopefully, they'll have an after school program I can work with on Tuesdays or Thursdays. The ideal situation would be to spend one day a week there, one day at Fairview, and Saturdays or Sundays at the hospital (whom I need to email, as well). I might be able to go read at Fairview during Smart Lunch -- provided I actually fill out my off-campus lunch form.
Publicizing isn't appearing to be as difficult as I feared. The librarians are happy to let me hang up flyers at the library, and they've volunteered to advertise it on their digital platforms. I'll hang up flyers at school as well, though I don't have much hope that they'll come to good use. With Mrs. Bryson's help, I may be able to send out a mass email to all of the Jackson County teachers. Between the lot of them, I'm sure someone has books they no longer need. At City Lights, Chris might let me keep some of the kids books that would otherwise go to Friends of the Library, and I'm sure he'd let me hang up flyers in the store. Perhaps there are even some ARCs that would be suitable to donate.
The drop-off locations for the book donations have been set up (JCPL and the SMHS front desk). I need to explain to Mrs. Miller who the book donations are for.
For the most part, the preliminary planning is done. It's time to start contacting people besides my community mentors. By the end of spring break, I hope to have the project up and running -- necessary people contacted, dates set, advertising in place.
I'm submitting the proposal for my "Genius Hour" project today. I've decided to call it Books For Kids, though I might change the name. This one is a bit cliched. I want to find a way to encourage children to read -- especially children in poverty and children with low grades. I can sponsor books drives, tutoring sessions, read aloud sessions, and reading competitions. I'm not sure exactly which things out of that list I'll be doing, but that is the brainstorm.
I might be able to get Interact, YLC, or NHS to participate with it, and encourage high school students to volunteer at the Read-Alouds through the prospect of volunteer hours. If I continue with this project next year, I could apply for a grant from YLC.