The Power of a Book
By Karen Calder, Executive Director
Books and reading have always been a big part of my life. As a child, my mother always made books available to me and, equally importantly, let me choose which books I wanted to read. As executive director at Classroom Central, I want to give the same joy that I felt about reading to as many children as possible. That is why our organization is committed to providing free books for building both classroom and children’s home libraries.
Volunteering as a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program is another way that I get to share my passion for books and reading. I’ve been matched with my Little Sister, Kaylee, for more than five years. When we first met, I quickly learned that books weren’t a big part of her life.
On one of our first outings, I took Kaylee to dinner and asked if I could help with her schoolwork. Her Dad told me that she had some reading worksheets due and when I asked for a book to take with us, I was surprised by his response. What he sent with the two of us was a few crumpled up, photocopied pages that were stapled together, a far cry from the books of my childhood. I quickly realized that there were no books in Kaylee’s home for her to read.
Once at dinner, Kaylee informed me that she didn’t like to read and that the “book” we had with us was far beneath her reading level. Putting two and two together, I realized the reason she didn’t like to read was because she wasn’t able to have choice in the matter. In other words, she didn’t have access to the books that she wanted to read; those that were of interest to her.
Knowing the importance of scoring well on her 3rd grade EOG, I set out to encourage and support Kaylee’s interest in reading. We visited the library and bookstores on outings and would spend hours sitting on the floor and reading all of the books that she wanted to read. I started rewarding her with books and made sure to include at least one with every birthday and holiday gift. She reads books that are far different from the ones I read as a kid, but she’s reading! I’m proud to say that at the end of her third grade year, she scored a 4 (out of 5) on her reading EOG. I couldn’t have been more proud of her! What makes me even happier is that she now finds joy in reading.
This past fall, with support from Domtar and First Book, Classroom Central gave away more than 30,000 books to local educators in just two days. Many of these books will end up in the homes of children just like Kaylee. It is my hope this will help develop a lifelong love of reading for these children. That is the power of a book.