Thousands of children across San Diego have new books to read and a new-found love of reading, thanks to Words Alive, nonprofit organization that helps underserved, low-income, at-risk children, teens and families discover how books and reading can add meaning to their lives. The Read Aloud program currently serves 3,600 children in 135 classrooms at 27 San Diego schools.
As part of the Winter Book Give Away, Words Alive gave each child in its Read Aloud Programs a new book to add to their home library. In the Read Aloud program, trained volunteers read aloud each week to children from low income communities at early childhood education and Title 1 eligible elementary school sites across San Diego. As a classroom-based program, Words Alive partners with elementary schools, Head Start and child development centers to share a love of reading with children in preschool through third grade.
“Our mission is to open opportunities for life success by inspiring a commitment to reading,” said Patrick Stewart, executive director of Words Alive. “We help underserved children, teens and families use reading to change their lives.”
“An improvement I have seen in my students is in their engagement and conversations about texts,” said Renee Werner, a second grade teacher at Edison Elementary in City Heights. “The volunteers did a great job presenting students with questions and giving them praise and validation in their responses either right or wrong. This led to more students sharing their voice during reading.”
Then, on Wednesday, June 28th, Words Alive hosted an incredible book giveaway at Golden Hill School. This event was made possible by a partnership with the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), who chose Words Alive as the recipient of this year’s annual Accio Books campaign, a massive, international book drive and literacy advocacy campaign. Each student attending the giveaway (called the Apparating Library, in reference to the transportation spell in the Harry Potter series) received at least ten free books. There was a wide range of books available, from picture books like Clifford Goes to Hollywood to sprawling epics such as the full Inkspell series. Students came to the giveaway class by class and picked books from the thousands available.
While it was a hot day, the students were happy to step into the heat to scratch their reading itch. Even after the school day ended, many students came directly from their classrooms to the giveaway site when the bell rang, preferring to continue hunting for books rather than heading immediately home. Many students also stopped by the Apparating Library before or after their school day with parents and siblings. In these cases, the entire family was able to pick out new books and expand on their collective home library!
Words Alive received about 7,000 books from the Accio Books campaign, and in total HPA (the Harry Potter Alliance) members donated 44,438 books to schools, libraries, and community centers worldwide.
Golden Hill is a K-8 Dual Language Immersion school, and is therefore focused on bilingual learning. The school's overall mission, according to their website, is to "create a learning environment where teachers, parents, students and the community collaborate to develop children who are healthy, caring, responsible, lifelong learners and productive members of society." While Golden Hill School is certainly doing a lot of work to achieve this noble mission, the school cannot actively work towards this goal for a few months every year during summer break.
Everyone involved, from HPA staff and chapter members, to Golden Hill and Words Alive staff, understood the importance of this event and could see the potential impact. Because all of the students were able to take home so many new books to read during the summer, the average two months of reading skills lost during summer will be retained for them. They are also better poised now to start or continue building their home libraries and to becoming life-long readers and learners.
The giveaway "was one of the best days at school for our students and community,” said Maritza Tristan, a Resource Teacher at Golden Hill. She described the event as “a wonderful experience [that] students, parents and teachers can’t stop talking about.”