I was recently alerted to an extraordinary organization by a teacher friend, who posted an account of a visit to Barnes and Noble with her 3rd grade class. She wrote:
“Thanks to the My Own Book Program, every student in my class was able to buy $50 worth of brand new books from Barnes and Noble today.
The kids listened patiently as the coordinators gave them suggestions for shopping. And then they were off, snapping up copies of The Diary of A Wimpy Kid, Because of Winn Dixie, super hero themed chapter books, and one boy found a children's version of The Odyssey, which filled him with delight.
This boy, who is an out of the box thinker, is still trying to find his tribe: the people who will get him as he is, instead of trying to make him conform to everyone else. As we were leaving the store, he said, "This bookstore was so beautiful. It almost made me cry." Me, too. Me, too.
Thanks for this great story, and for descriptions of the program. Prior to the actual visit, the fund sends personnel to the classrooms. Children are guided to make inventories of their current reading, favorite topics and areas of interest. With discussion around these lists, by the time the children reach the store, they are well prepared to make smart choices.
Any teachers out there who are in the low-income areas and schools being served by this program should take note and follow the link to access books for their own classes! http://foundationcenter.org/grantmaker/myownbook/
Interestingly, there is another site of the same name which sends volunteers to visit classrooms and give away books on site:
While I don’t have a personal connection to this site, it is worth exploring. Getting books into the hands of children is a worthwhile endeavor by any means available! I am reminded of an earlier event I documented in Newark where a foundation sponsored Scholastic in providing new books to the children there, along with a little backpack to keep them in! http://www.examiner.com/article/my-very-own-library-foundation
Excerpted from what I wrote:
“. . . . . look at the life and legacy of Anne Feeley, a remarkable, dedicated woman who started a program for Newark school children called “My Very Own Library”. She passed away in October 2012 from a rare form of brain cancer, but in collaboration with the Foundation for Newark’s Future, that year, her foundation provided 11,000 children in Newark Public Schools with a total of 10 free books of their own choosing!”
Surrounded by so much visual media, and over-stimulated by video games and over-the-top action movies, it is hard for traditional print media to compete. Schools are the last bastions of support for life-long reading habits. There is no incentive for reading better than the experience of doing it – often, consistently, and in optimum conditions, such as a quiet, comfortable place where your imagination can soar. If we cannot provide these incentives and the resources for rich, engaging books, we are fighting a losing battle with the Matthew principle. Those who have access and resources will go deeper, faster, more successfully, and those that do not will simply lose out and fall farther behind. Not seeing the value in, or being able to make sense out of, the written word is still a disadvantage. The same children who aren't reading are also not benefiting from the alternative resources such as online and video sites, museums or educational workshops and after-schools. Educators, parents and foundations of the kind showcased here must continue to bridge the gap.
Bonus link: Children in grades 1-6 can earn a free book just for reading 8 books this summer. Check if the program is available near you through this link: bit.ly/1usgM8M
I have also written frequently about specific books - mostly picture books suitable for read-alouds - that will delight and inspire your young readers. Please check my articles for references.