Guest blog post by Lena Reilly, Corporate Communications intern
On the morning of June 6th, Hawthorne Avenue School in Newark, NJ, buzzed with excitement as students and faculty gathered for My Very Own Library’s final event of the school year—and I was lucky enough to see the event in action! The theme for the event was Aloha to Cool Books and Hot Days,a colorful and festive way to celebrate the 38,000 lower-income students across the U.S who were able to build their very own library thanks to the My Very Own Library (MVOL) program, by selecting a total of 10 free books from the Scholastic Book Fair throughout the school year.
As I entered the school, Hawthorne’s all-star readers, Zamir (7th grade), Sadaka (4th grade), Anya, Deshawn, Krystal, and Javier (6th grade), greeted me with huge smiles at the entrance of the beautifully decorated auditorium. Each student proudly held their handmade signs that bore the names of the visiting authors.
Authors included: Augusta Scattergood, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Denise Lewis Patrick, Eliot Schrefer, and Sayantani DasGupta. Each shared their own story to tell about race, immigration, difference, discovery, and identity, all of which are fundamental components of their books. It is easy to see why students cherish these books, as kids want to read about characters just like them, who are smart, strong, and “can save the world!,” as Sayantani DasGupta, author of The Serpent's Secret, exclaimed at the event.
During the event, Jordan, a quiet, yet courageous 8th grader who earned the status of "top reader" for his remarkable reading abilities, took to the stage to speak to fellow students about why MVOL is important to him:
“MVOL is important because it gives kids like us new books in order to help us flourish into passionate readers. It also gives us the power to choose the books we want to read.”
Jordan said he plans to read the entire Sherlock Holmes series over the summer, because they inspire him to pursue his dreams of becoming a detective one day.
Following Jordan’s speech, Catherine Wilson, President & CEO United Way of Essex and West Hudson, partner and leading supporter of MVOL in Newark, wowed students by telling them that today, across the city of Newark, over 20,000 students received 4 free books of their own choice. That’s a total of 200,000 free books given to students this school year to help them build their own libraries at home! Catherine stressed how important it is for each child to have access to their own library of books over the summer to help them avoid the summer slide – the common loss of academic skills over the school break. The Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report™: 6th Edition tells us that “…a majority of kids pick out the books they read for fun at least most of the time (63%) and 88% say that they are more likely to finish books that they pick out.” So, the power of choice, which MVOL grants to children all across the U.S, is absolutely crucial to every child’s developing a lifelong love for reading.
It is even more important to provide children from lower-income families with a collection of books that they want to read throughout the summer break, because, as KFRR also tells us, one in five kids in lower-income families do not read any books at all over the summer. MVOL focuses on giving all children an opportunity to take home their favorite books so that they too can look forward to reading throughout the long months away from school.
The students of Hawthorne truly demonstrate the impact that MVOL and access to books can have on the thousands of children who participate in the program. For example, 4th grade student Travis couldn’t say enough about his love for reading. His favorite part of reading any book is “…when you get to learn new things and get smarter.” Travis’ words are a wonderful reminder that children have an innate passion for learning, which ties directly to their relationship to/exposure to reading.