Little Books, Big Hearts

We open up new worlds of imagination and determination when we teach children to read. Books become stepping stones that teach empathy and all about the surrounding world. This was the case when I was an educational volunteer in Russia for a couple years. Watching a child’s face light up when reading a favorite story was life-changing for all of us American volunteers.

Even though Russia is a developed country, they still do not have the prolific choices of reading material like we do. Most Russian homes that I visited had a book shelf with a few titles arranged neatly. They often wrap their books in pretty, homemade book covers to protect their precious collection. They would not think of throwing a book around the way we do. Some of the schools and universities do offer lending privileges to students, but their library services are not nearly as comprehensive and available as those in the United States and other European nations.

I was inspired with excitement when I read an article on goodnewsnetwork.org. The article highlighted a group of college students who started a book project for the children of Haiti. These students were enrolled in a French class at Ashland, Virginia’s Randolph-Macon College. The French professor thought that writing story books in French would be good practice. Their class project included writing a creative story in French and illustrating it.

It did not stop at just being a class grade. Professor Jennifer Shotwell and her French students decided to donate these special books to school children in Haiti, where French is the predominate language. According to the article, the college group named their project “Little French Books”. Nearly one hundred books were written and illustrated to send to Haiti.

There is an extreme shortage of books on this impoverished island and very little money for parents or schools to buy any. The story books used universal themes that appeal to children, such as talking animals, royal characters, fairy tales, and other works of fantasy. The shipment of books was well received and the French class was glad to make a child’s day with the gift of reading.

Professor Shotwell had a fund-raising campaign to raise money in order to make sturdy, hardbound copies of her students’ story book. They rallied the support of the college and community and were able to raise over two thousand dollars to print hardcover books, stated the article. This year alone, the article noted that the “Little French Books” Project was able to provide new, original story books to over six hundred Haitian children. With the continued effort of the students and Professor Shotwell, this precious story will never end.

A Unique Way Teachers Share Their Love of Literature

With technology surrounding us everywhere we turn it is nice to see teachers who want to share their love of reading with their students in a unique and fun way. Every time I am with my nieces and nephews the only thing I see is the top of their heads. Let me explain. They never look up to see my face as they always have their eyes on their laptops or their cell phones. I for one applaud these teachers for trying to get their students interested in reading a real book in a fun and festive way.

It all began this summer when teachers in a school in Mississippi were tired of looking at boring, empty lockers as they walked down the hall. They came up with the idea to paint these unused lockers, which have been unused for many years, different colors to represent spines of a book. They went one step further by asking for volunteers to help them write the titles of their favorite books on each newly painted “book spine.” When asking for volunteers the response was overwhelming.

This “Avenue of Literature” as it is affectionately called, is very colorful and very engaging. The row of lockers is located in the English hallway of an eighth grade junior high school. The hopes of the teachers that came up with this brilliant idea is to get children excited and engaged in the act of actually removing their eyes from their laptops, cellular phones and video games and using their eyes to read an actual book.

There is something much more to a book than words on a page. Actually holding a book and turning the pages with anticipation of what comes next is part of the excitement of literature as well. I applaud these teachers for taking this amazing and creative step in hopes that when their students return to their school in September they will walk down the “Avenue of Literature” with curiosity and eagerness to read every book title that is listed on the Avenue and continue that practice long after they have left the eighth grade in this wonderful school in Mississippi.