Friday, May 30, 2008

Reader To Reader to Get Dakin Award

(Always nice to have our program recognized)

AMHERST - "Movers and Shakers of the Valley," the annual Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce awards dinner, will be June 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Robert Crown Center, Hampshire College.

The chamber will recognize residents for their service to the community with Dakin awards. David Mazor, who founded the Reader to Reader book redistribution program, will be recognized in the human services category; state Rep. Ellen Story will be recognized for government; the Promoting Downtown Amherst Committee will be recognized for community; and J.F. Conlon and Associates will be recognized for business.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We all have changed because of you

A wonderful note from Navajo Pine High School's librarian, Carla Clauschee, to the Navajo Mentoring Program's reading mentors. These dedicated Amherst College students work day in and day out to give support and positive feedback to the Navajo high school students participating in the literacy program.)

May 28, 2008

To all Reading Mentors,

I would like to email you all a tremendous "thank you" for a job well done. Without you our reading program would not have happened. I know that you are probably some of the most busy people on earth. The task you took upon yourselves was very demanding. There are few full-time teachers who could have done what you accomplished in less than five months.

Through your dedicated responses to Navajo Pine students you have encouraged excellence, scholarship, discipline, and above all a love of reading. I know our students have been deeply affected by each response you gave. Our students were affected because each of you became a mentor/friend/ family that they could trust and count on. You became something stable in our student's lives that are often in flux. The wiki mentors became something our students could count on to be there and listen to them in an Internet family. I know each of you became a personal example of someone who they could look up to and admire. You gave our students courage and hope to risk making their goals HIGH.

This program has been very successful. Most of our students would not have read one book during the school year. Each student has read and mastered five or six very difficult books. They have written literary criticism. This is something unheard of in our school. Students are reading because they want to read--and they want to talk to you. You are the HEART of the reading program.

This is the first successful reading program I have ever seen. We have activated higher order thinking skills and a love of reading. Our proof is that students sign onto the reading wiki and read without a reward. They do it because they want to.

Thank you. Thank each one of you. We all have changed because of you.

Carla Clauschee
Navajo Pine High School

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

15,000 books. Not many people would do that.

My name is Merian. I am in fourth grade at Patrick E. Bowe Elementary. I thank you for giving us books, It was really nice of you to donate 15,000 books. Not many people would do that. You made many people happy. I got the book called Ingledove. I thought it sounded interesting. It’s about two kids going to see their mother’s grave and there is something weird that wasn’t there before.

Again, I thank you very much.

Patrick E. Bowe
Chicopee, MA

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Success is Sweet

(A wonderful letter on the Navajo Mentoring Program)

Dear David,

Success is sweet!

The reading mentor program has been a great success. I know it has effected everyone who has been reading and mentoring. This program has such a huge scope it is hard to explain it to people in just a few minutes. Each day we respond to different needs. Whether it be adding summer reading programs or How to Get into College pages. It works because we do more than just give a student a book. The program supports the students while they read. It teaches students how to read great literature. It provides real world incentives. But, most of all, it gives students the courage to have hope. The mentors encourage students to have the courage to succeed.

Our mentors are not the typical stereotypes of rich college kids. They come from all places and economic backgrounds. They relate to our students and provide examples of success. This program is real people responding to the desperate needs of real students.

There are countless numbers of reading programs offered to schools. Many have been tried at our school. The mentoring program started because I asked you for help. A book sitting on shelf does not give a student the desire or motivation to read. Mentors who give students hope bridge the gap and help students become readers by their human interactions.

How do we know this program works? We know the Reading Wiki works because after just six months many students who have never even cracked a book on their own are now logging into the site and corresponding about the books they are reading on their vacation time without being rewarded or graded. This means that students choose to read and are using their own time to explore books on their own. It means that the students choose to read over any other activity--movies, sports, TV, hanging out.

The Reading Wiki and mentoring program was developed to create students who like to read.

We have succeeded.

Carla Clauschee
Navajo Pine High School
Navajo, NM

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thank You from Lambert-Lavoie School

(15,000 free children's books go out and the letters start coming in!)

Thank you so much for your generous donation of books to the students of the Chicopee Public School System. Lambert-Lavoie School has received their portion of the books and will be distributing them to the students prior to the summer vacation break.

The gift of reading is such a wonderful and worthwhile gift, one of the greatest gifts that we can give to our children, our future. It is very rewarding to see charities such as yours who have taken such an active part in helping students “capture” a love of reading. As we all know, it takes only one good book to set the ball rolling. It could very well end up being one of the books that you have just donated.

Once again, I thank you for your generous donation. The staff, students and I truly appreciate this exceptional gift.


Brenda P. Shepard
Library Technician
Lambert-Lavoie School
Chicopee, MA

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Pro Bono Pros!

Last night Reader To Reader was proud to sponsor the Amherst Chamber of Commerce monthly After 5 gathering at the Amherst College Natural History Museum. The gatherings are a great networking opportunity for us to meet local business owners and employees and tell them about our work building school libraries.
As a co-sponsor we were able to hand out literature and recent newspaper articles, and to make a short speech about our work. The event co-sponsor was the law firm Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, Attorneys at Law, William E. Hart, Counsel.
Well, it shows how effective networking can be as the fine lawyers at Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas, Attorneys at Law, William E. Hart, Counsel generously offered to do pro bono legal work for Reader To Reader.
With approximately 45 lawyers, the firm is the biggest law firm in W. Mass and represents a number of major clients in both the for profit and nonprofit business world.
Their offer to do pro bono legal work for our tiny nonprofit is graciously accepted.
They state on their website , “As a firm and individually, we actively participate in professional, civic, political, educational, social service and cultural organizations and causes. As legal counselors, board members, volunteers and supporters, we are proud to help many organizations and institutions in their efforts to improve the quality of life in our communities.”
We agree!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Navajo Mentoring Program in the News

AMHERST - Heather Leonard, an Amherst College sophomore, has been reading novels and then discussing them with Navajo high school students in New Mexico.

She's part of an online program that connects 15 "reading mentors" on a wealthy and literate campus with 15 gifted youths 2,000 miles away at a poor school with low reading comprehension levels. Having established online relationships, she and other Amherst College students in August will visit the New Mexico youths, who in turn will come to Amherst in October.

Leonard said she's been reading novels at the same time as the New Mexico students, then going to an online forum to discuss what they liked about the books. "Then I guide the discussion to what are the themes of this novel, where is the tension, what is the author's intent," she said. "The students have been more responsive than I expected and pushed me to think harder than I thought I would have to."

Some of the novels have had Native American themes, such as "Love Medicine" and "Winter in the Blood," while others are literary bestsellers such as "The Kite Runner" and "Angela's Ashes."
The Navajo Outreach Program grew out of a partnership between Reader to Reader, which collects donated books and gives them to people in low-income areas, and Amherst College's new Center for Community Engagement.

"No matter where you're from, no matter how poor, there's probably a book that can change your life if we can get it into your hands," said David Mazor, founder of Reader to Reader.

Since 2001, he has distributed almost 2 million books, and stores about 10,000 in the basement of the Cadigan Center, an Amherst College building on Woodside Avenue. The organization had already supplied 7,000 books to the high school in isolated Navajo, N.M., and Mazor talked with the librarian there about how to get students to read them.

Last fall, he met Molly Mead, the new director of the college's program for involving students in service projects. "She just got it," Mazor said. "She was so clear on the benefits of it and what our mission and challenges were."

Mead said the program is different from many of the other community service projects she has helped to arrange for Amherst College students over the last nine months.

"I worry that too much of what students are doing is nice volunteer service that's not making much of a difference in the world," she said. "Getting kids to read who are not otherwise reading - what a window into the world it will give them."

The program has broadened the concept of community engagement far beyond the Pioneer Valley, Mazor said. And it has broadened the perspective of the Amherst College students as well as the Navajo youths, he said.

"None of them had read 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,'" Mazor said.

"Their energy, interest in the books and in corresponding have made it the success it is."
Reader to Reader provided all the books for the program, and plans to send each Navajo youth seven extra books for summer reading. Amherst College will pay the airfare for the student exchanges in August and October.

When 12 to 15 Navajo students come to Amherst College, they will learn about more than books. Admissions officials will talk to them about how to choose a college, and members of the Athletics Department will speak about fitness and nutrition. They will read a book by Amherst author and professor Madeleine Blais and discuss it with her, and meet her husband, author John Katzenbach. They'll meet Dan Giat of Pelham, who wrote the screenplay for the HBO production of "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

The students will get a cooking lesson from "Chef Bill" Collins of Pelham, visit an Amherst recording studio, and go to museums, a robotics lab, and the basketball hall of fame.
Amherst College English Professor Marisa Parham will offer a course next fall that will have a service component in which her students will serve as online reading mentors to the Navajo students. She will do a weekly podcast lecture so the Navajo students can get a college-level lecture, Mazor said.

He and Parham will accompany the Amherst College students on the trip to New Mexico in August.

"If we're going to pair them with Amherst students online, why not bring the reading mentors to the reservation and have a discussion in person?" he said.

"And if they can go out there, then logically the Navajo students should come here and experience what life is like on a college campus and see something very different from New Mexico."

Mazor, an Amherst native and former film distributor, will receive an award for his Reader to Reader work at the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner on June 5.

This week, he delivered 15,000 children's books to schools in Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield and West Springfield. Next year, he hopes to double the number of students in the Navajo Outreach Program and see how far the concept of cultural exchange can go.

"There's a first-year student at Amherst from Beijing, and I've ordered books of Chinese poetry in English so that Navajo students next fall can read them and give their insights into Chinese culture," Mazor said.

Reader To Reader Donates 15,000 Children's Books to Springfield

Schools share donated books

Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Springfield Republican

CHICOPEE - Schools in four Western Massachusetts cities received an unexpected gift when a nonprofit organization delivered 15,000 books to Patrick E. Bowe School.

Reader To Reader, Inc. delivered seven different titles geared to third-, fourth- and fifth-graders on Thursday. Schools in Springfield, West Springfield, Holyoke and Chicopee were invited to take what they want, said David S. Mazor, executive director.

"I love this, I would take all of these books home. I like chapter books, the longer ones and I like adventure books," said Grant C. Herman, 10, a Bowe School fourth-grader.

Looking through the titles, Isabel H. Lopez, 10, already picked out "The Vanishing Point" by Susan Bonners.

"It has big words and vanishing means disappearing," she said, adding she likes mysteries.

The books were donated to Reader To Reader Inc. by publisher Farrar, Strauss and Giroux and First Book. Program sponsors Bank of America, Comcast and the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation also assisted, Mazor said.

The agency has been collecting and donating books to schools nationwide for five years. It has given 60,000 books to Greater Springfield schools, he said.

The books may be used to enhance school libraries and many will be given to students. Studies show 60 percent of low-income children do not own books, and Mazor said his organization wants to change that.

"We figure now is a great time to get books in their hands, it is important for kids to read over the summer, kids slip back if they don't," he said.

When Reader to Reader secured the books, it asked Bowe School to store them because it does not have room in its Amherst College office, Mazor said.

Educators were happy to do that and plan to allow children to keep a book, Bowe Vice Principal Linda C. Balakier said.

"This is so great, we are always in need of new books," she said.

One benefit is the books are newer ones teachers do not have, she said.

"Even with my closet of books, I've never seen so many books," said Danielle A. Pinette, 10, a Bowe fourth-grader.

She and her classmates agreed they are excited about picking out a book.

Jacob M. Edelen, 10, a fourth-grader, sai0d he would like to read all seven. "Whenever we get a chance we are basically reading a book."

Before her students go home every summer, Vivian Aickelin, a fourth-grade Bowe teacher said she gives each a book from her classroom library. The donation will help that.

While children do use the library, getting a gift of a book tends to get children more excited about reading, she said.

"To get a free book, it will make them more interested," she said. "Everyone can use a good book."