While many kids in Charlotte spend their summer reading books from their home library to keep up with the literacy skills they learned in the classroom, some kids haven’t had the luxury of opening a book, let alone owning one.
Sterling Elementary School teacher, Dave Hartzell, 29, has seen first-hand how a lack of reading material can impact a child’s education.
“After five years of teaching in high-poverty areas, I was really frustrated with the way students were being prepared to be test-takers instead of lifelong learners,” says Hartzell.
“I remember thinking back to the state tests I took when I was younger and know that it really wasn’t what my teachers taught me that helped me pass those tests. It was more the background knowledge that I had accumulated throughout my life from reading books, having worldly experiences and socializing with friends and family,” says Hartzell.
It was at this point that Hartzell realized something needed to change. His students who live in homes without books needed to be given an opportunity to learn and discover.
“My students don’t have books, don’t travel, and very often don’t even have appropriate social skills. I was thinking to myself that too often we are wasting our time teaching kids how to read, when we should be teaching them to love to read,” says Hartzell.
It was at that point The 40 Book Project was born.
The goal of The 40 Book Project is simple: to provide a library of at least 40 books to students who live in homes impacted by poverty. The hope is that by providing high-interest books to kids, they will develop a love of reading, which will lead to improved critical thinking skills and a successful education.
“We start by looking for students who don’t have much at home, but are very resilient. They work hard and treat others with respect despite of their shortcomings,” says Hartzell.
“When we pinpoint a student, we start putting together a library of books that we know they will loves based on their interests. We look for magazines, board games, puzzles, and even art supplies. Really anything that builds critical thinking.” The 40 Book Project even donates bookcases to families, which often become the only piece of furniture in an apartment other than a bed.
Since starting in January, The 40 Book Project has collected an estimated 5,500 books and provided 86 students with home libraries consisting of between 60 and 120 books. There are even 2,000 books waiting to go into students’ home libraries at the beginning of the new school year.
The 40 Book Project is a grassroots campaign using outlets like Facebook and edbacker.com to spread the word.
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