Among our most ardent supporters are the teachers, donors, and friends who harbor lasting memories of their childhood reading and book-related experiences—from the joys of their reading and school activities to their favorite books growing up to their access or lack thereof to books they wanted. Read their stories.
Recently, when I decided to retire, family and friends asked me what I was going to do with my free time. I responded that, among other things, I wanted to do something to help kids learn to read. Not a surprising response, given my love of reading. But, there was more to it. I was retiring at a time when a staggering number of kids were failing to read proficiently by the third grade. I wanted to do something to help reverse that trend.
Last December I took a step in the right direction when I volunteered at the local Barnes and Noble store and gift-wrapped purchases for tips to benefit Book Trust. As I learned more about the organization, I recognized the advantages of its innovative and far-reaching approach to help address the increasingly urgent problem of childhood illiteracy, especially among children from low-income households. I knew it was where I wanted to volunteer and, fortunately, there was a place for me.
I can best describe my volunteer experience as one "aha" moment after another. Like when I volunteered at a book distribution and felt the palpable joy and excitement of 1st graders eagerly waiting to receive and read the books they had ordered. And, when I saw kids' eyes light up, almost in disbelief, at a Project Homeless event, when they found out they really could choose a book and take it home, free. And, doing office work, entering survey data and scanning kids' thank you letters--letters that expressed, in the kids' own words, a new-found confidence and hope for their future. Comments like, "I love Book Trust because now I read to my family and friends and everyone I can." And, "I will always, always, always read books, maybe even in college." - Joan Ishiwata, a Book Trust Volunteer
My five siblings and I were years apart in age and they were not very bookish—but I was a voracious reader. I went to a parochial school until eighth grade. It had no library, only shelves in the back of each classroom with age-appropriate books of the nuns' choosing. Smile. Biographies of saints and highly pasteurized stories of sports figures were the norm. The public library was miles and miles away and my mother didn't drive, so summers were the only time I could visit regularly since I could take a bus during daylight hours. We were a 1950s middle-class family, but I felt starved for books. My best friend went to a public school and she participated in the Scholastic Book Club. I borrowed every book she ever ordered. But, oh, how I wanted them to be my own.
Today, owning the books I read and love is a passion. I can truly relate to the thrill and delight and privilege of having books of my very own readily available, surrounding me like friends. All the advances I've made in my life, I'm certain, are because of my ability to read and read well. I want that for all children. I want that for my community and our country. And that's why I support Book Trust. –Valerie Beck, Book Trust Supporter
Book Trust kids get to make their own selections from Scholastic Book Club flyers each month — something I remember doing as an elementary school student. I still remember the way the magic marker would bleed through the pages when I circled the books I liked, so it makes me smile to think of so many more students having that opportunity. - Kate Messner, author