A Book for Every Student: Yearly Donation Drive Takes on New Meaning in “Year of COVID”

CEDAR HILL, Texas — “So tell me about your books,” said Patrice Jones as she stopped by each table of first graders reading in Plummer Elementary School’s library.

Many of the young Cedar Hill ISD students chatted excitedly with their friends about the story in the book they held. It was clear that excitement was a joy for Jones, the school’s literacy coordinator, to see.

“First grade: that’s when students really begin to learn those essential reading skills, those foundational reading skills,” said Jones.

She said, in this school year, it’s especially good to see those skills taking hold and her students finding the joys of reading. After all, development of children and advancement of their education has been a big concern in the year that COVID-19 has changed everyone’s reality. Studies across the country, and the world, have shown students falling behind as surviving the pandemic has meant some losing in-person learning, focus on their studies, or simply the traditional education style that many students thrive in.

However, the strange times have lead many educators to “go the extra mile” in the past year and do what they can to help their students succeed, and it is efforts like that, that may have helped Jones’s first graders find a love for reading in these strange times.

“You keep reading,” said Linda Golden to one of the students who told her about his book.

Golden is now retired from her post as a business teacher in the near-by Duncanville ISD, as is Sherry Perkins, but the two life-long educators played a big part in seeing that those first graders were focusing on learning to read, even as the pandemic kept a lot of them at home.

Golden and Perkins are among a group of retired educators across the State of Texas who, every year, work with Barnes and Noble on a massive book donation and distribution effort. If you’ve ever bought a book at the store during the holiday season and have been asked to donate a book at the check-out, this is precisely where that donation is going.

“Since 2016, we have distributed 6,778 books,” in just the Cedar Hill district and two neighboring ones, Golden said; countless other books have been donated in other districts across Texas.

Perkins said each local group of retirees gets to decide where the books will be distributed in their area, where they can do the most good. She said it’s always been the area’s youngest kids, and they always strive to get to every single one of them.

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Students read a book (Brian Scott/Spectrum News)

“Every first grader,” said Perkins. "A brand new book for every first grader and we tell the teachers these are not to stay in the classroom, these are to go home with the kids to have at home.”

So this year, each of the Plummer Elementary first graders, as well as first graders at each of the district’s elementary schools, got a Little Golden Book to call their own. Perkins and Golden said it is just a small gift really, but for the young students who are still learning to read, it can be an incredibly meaningful gift.

Plummer Principal John Edmun said it’s been especially meaningful for students this year. While some attend in person and others learn from home, each one has their book that they can learn from, grow with, and enjoy.

“A lot of the books come with different characters that they’re familiar with, that they’re happy with, and they’re talking about, ‘Oh my gosh! I know this character!’ So a lot of that pumps up their motivation to read and really get excited for class,” said Edmun.

In a year where motivation has been lacking for people of all ages, that means a lot.

“The students all have a book in their hands and even the students at home still have those opportunities to read a book,” said Jones, again, smiling over the room full of reading first graders.

Source: Spectrumlocalnews