Last month I had the privilege of meeting Moe at one of our Book Trust celebrations at a school in Denver. Moe’s experience that day triggered him to think about his young self. It started when he saw that Scholastic Reading Club flyer---it immediately evoked feelings of desire and embarrassment. He was the kid who couldn’t buy books because his mom could not afford them.
“I get it, man.”
He also saw his young self in Jesus. Jesus is a 2nd grader who like Moe, was bright, talkative, and perhaps a bit mischievous. Moe quickly learned that he and Jesus shared a passion for sports as they perused the order form discussing which books Jesus was planning to buy that month. The rapport-building dialogue quickly turned into a more serious conversation when Moe inquired about a burn mark on Jesus’s hand. Jesus shared that he burned it on the iron last week when he was ironing his clothes. Moe turned over his hand to show Jesus an identical burn mark and said, “I get it man, I ironed my clothes too when I was 8.”
Spending time choosing Book Trust books and reading with Jesus reminded Moe of the numerous challenges he faced as a kid and the absence of books in his life.
Moe grew up in Atlanta and his only access to books was through the school library. In fact, he didn’t own his first book until college. And for Moe, a first-generation college graduate, those first books he owned were thanks to a football scholarship to CU Boulder.
Moe went on to earn an MBA at DU and is a Human Resources professional in Denver Public Schools. Today, his bookshelves are overflowing and he can’t get rid of books to save his life. They are lined with books that are of interest to him—culturally relevant books like Hip Hop Wars and books about business and people.
Primeaux, Moe’s son, is turning two in May. Primeaux is growing up very differently than Moe. His parents are throwing him a big birthday party next month. At the bottom of each invitation, Moe specifically wrote, “No gifts please.” However, for those insistent friends and family members who refuse to honor his wishes, Moe told them the only gift he will accept on behalf of Primeaux is a book.
Moe was a kid who instinctively knew that books could change his life, but it was much, much harder than it should’ve been. If Moe had been a Book Trust kid like Jesus, he’d have experienced the value of choice, the joy of celebrating reading, and the consistency of practicing becoming a reader month in and month out as he created a personal library of up to 30 books over the course of the school year.
Building Motivated Readers, One Book at at Time
Book Trust develops a sense of pride in our students who begin to believe in themselves as readers for the first time. For kids who receive so many negative messages about who they are and their potential to be successful, being told that they get to choose books each month creates a real sense of possibility. Book Trust creates a reason for our kids to believe in themselves and a reason for them to be excited about tomorrow. They learn that they too can get excited for the second book in the Magic Treehouse series after finishing the first one—an opportunity other literacy programs do not provide.
So, what happens when kids own their reading destiny early on? They are more motivated to read, they read more, and become better readers. This matters because we know that:
– If kids develop strong literacy skills by 3rd grade, they’re much more likely to make that critical pivot from learning to read to reading to learn.
– If they are able to read to learn, they’ll be better able to master the math, science and social studies they need to be more successful in school.
– With success in school, they’re much more likely to go on to college or a career of their choice.
– With a college education, they’ll get a better job and earn more money.
– And, with a good job they are much more likely to become a productive member of our community and they’re much more likely to pass on knowledge and learning to their own children, when the time comes.
This is how the cycle of failure is broken. This is how Moe succeeded in breaking the cycle of poverty for his family.
Without Book Trust, people like Moe are the exception rather than the rule. For Jesus and the 50,000 students we serve, Book Trust is providing an advantage which will ensure all of our children, and one day their children, become exceptions. That is how we create a revolution, one child at a time.
Book Trust is poised and prepared for growth. We will not give up until the exception becomes the rule.