Last month the Washington Elementary School District was the recipient of the largest donation of new and gently used books than it had ever received before. While the donation was happily welcomed, it posed its own problem: how to sort through close to 10,000 books in a short time period to make sure they get to the right age groups?
Enter Jill Hicks, community outreach specialist for WESD. In just a few days Hicks had arranged nearly 190 student volunteers and nearly a dozen adult volunteers, many of whom were from the Sunnyslope Kiwanis Club, of which Hicks is a member.
Student organizations within WESD, including National Junior Honor Society, Student Council and other campus-based service groups, as well as students from the Sunnyslope High School Key Club and the Greenway High School National Honor Society, all showed up at the WESD district office warehouse in shifts on March 13 to sort through the 10 pallets of donated books. The project began at 2:30 p.m. and didn’t wrap up until close to sunset.
Damaged books or books that were more for adult readers were set aside, and the rest were packed in boxes marked with the appropriate grades, including K-2, 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8. The boxes would all later be delivered to teachers throughout the district for use in class or for children to take home and keep.
The donation was the result of an in-store book drive hosted by all 117 Fry’s grocery stores in Arizona and coordinated by BookPALS and Discover Books. Mountain View School has been a longtime service site for BookPALS, and North Central resident Ellen Dean is the Arizona coordinator for the program.
BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is an all-volunteer literacy program sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation whose mission is to promote the joys of reading (www.bookpals.net). Performing artists and trained community volunteers read to children at public elementary schools, special events, museums, fairs, shelters, hospitals and more.
Readers use their talents to bring books to life and to get kids excited about reading. “We don’t teach kids to read,” explains Dean, “We teach kids to love reading.”
The program also coordinates large children’s books drives, like the one that netted WESD this windfall of reading material.
For more information, Contact Ellen Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 602-750-2923.