Thursday, March 11, 2010

37,000 Books for New Mexico Schools

"Changing the world" — New England organization donates $500,000 in books to GMCS

By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola
The Gallup Independent
(photo credit: Brian Leddy)

GALLUP, NM — Carla Clauschee believes she “just happened to be in a lucky place at the right time” a decade ago.

Ever since then, students at Navajo Pine High School in Navajo, N.M., have benefited from Clauschee’s lucky place and right timing. Now, students across McKinley County are also benefiting.

Ten years ago, Reader to Reader, Inc., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit located on the campus of Amherst College, contacted Clauschee, the librarian at Navajo Pine, about donating books to the school. In the years since, Navajo Pine has received more than $100,000 in books and $50,000 in computers from Reader to Reader, and some of its students have participated in mentoring and exchange programs with Amherst students that were arranged by Reader to Reader.

Last month, the organization shipped 37,000 books — worth $500,000 — to the Gallup McKinley County Schools for distribution to GMCS libraries and classrooms and even to other schools and libraries in the county. According to David Mazor, the founding executive director of Reader to Reader, the books were donated by Follett Educational Services.

“It is a wonderful gift to readers throughout McKinley County,” said Carol A. Sarath, GMCS’s library media coordinator who worked to facilitate the donation of the books, which involved recruiting and coordinating many local volunteers to unload, unpack, sort, stack, and distribute the books.

Opening possibilities

According to Clauschee, Mazor lives out the philosophy of “changing the world one book at a time.” Through his decade-long efforts to help her students, Clauschee believes Mazor has positively impacted the educational environment of Navajo Pine High School.

Mazor first contacted Navajo Pine, she explained, because it was on a list of needy U.S. schools. Since Reader to Reader’s first shipment of books, Mazor has tried to cater to Navajo Pine’s particular needs and help the school library keep up with the times, Clauschee said. Two areas Mazor has particularly helped, she said, is with the library’s Native American literature and its manga collection, a genre of comic-like literature that developed in Japan and is known for its graphic images.

“Our Native American literature collection blossomed,” Clauschee said of Mazor’s assistance. “Our manga collection is huge,” she added. “It’s one of the biggest in the state.”

“Where ‘Moby Dick’ was threatening,” she said, “manga lured them in.” Students then started reading more challenging literature after becoming manga fans, she explained.
In addition, Clauschee said Mazor went beyond just providing books to the Navajo Pine library.

“David realized that providing books did not mean they would be read,” she said. “He offered to find Navajo Pine students mentors.”

Using Amherst College as a resource, Mazor recruited Amherst students to act as academic mentors to Navajo Pine students, and the two groups would read and discuss the same literature using the collaborative Internet resource Wiki as their communication tool. That mentoring program eventually led to exchange program visits between the two campuses. When ten Navajo Pine students traveled to Amherst on an all-expenses-paid trip two years ago, they were able to tour the college, meet with authors, and attend sporting events.

“It was a trip to open their minds to possibilities,” Clauschee said.

Mazor has also visited Navajo Pine and presented unique awards to students who have excelled in the reading program. For example, Clauschee said, Mazor presented volleyballs — signed by the U.S. Olympic Volleyball Team — to top reading students at Navajo Pine who played volleyball.

When contacted at his office on Friday, Mazor said Reader to Reader’s mission is to make sure schools have well-stocked libraries and classrooms. “This is a necessity not a luxury, and we fight every day to bring books and computers to schools that desperately need them,” he said. “Schools like Navajo Pine are at the heart of our mission.”

Clauschee said she believes Navajo Pine is “still reaping the benefits” of all the good things Mazor has done for the school over the last decade.

Positive impact

One of the benefits that spilled over to the rest of the school district is Reader to Reader’s recent shipment of the 37,000 books from Follett Educational Services.

Mazor explained that although Reader to Reader had “the option of donating these books to any school district in the country,” his nonprofit selected the GMCS due to its strong relationship with Clauschee and Navajo Pine.

“People have just been thrilled,” Sarath said of the district wide reaction to the book donation. “We just have teachers and librarians oohing and aahing,” she added.

According to Sarath, the donation has included a variety of dictionaries, classroom sets of classic novels taught in the district’s secondary schools, reference books, elementary picture books, and teacher guides. Because of the donation, Sarath said, every K-3 classroom in the district received a primary dictionary, and at Church Rock Academy, librarian Jennifer Brown was able to send home a student dictionary with each K-5 student at the school.

“To send it home with them was fantastic,” agreed Brown, who added that the students were excited to receive their own home edition and a number of parents have stopped by the school to express their appreciation.

In addition to offering the books to all GMCS schools, Sarath said she tried to contact every other school in the county to offer them books, and schools have taken her up on her offer. Those who haven’t, she added, are welcome to see what books are left.

One book that is plentiful, Sarath explained, is a paperback Spanish-English dictionary. She has already distributed about a thousand copies of the dictionary across the district and would be happy to pass along the rest to other organizations and schools that work with Spanish-speaking people or students. Sarath encouraged interested individuals to contact her assistant Ruth Sanchez.

Clauschee sees this donation of 37,000 books from Reader to Reader to be further evidence of how Mazor’s “positive world view” impacts others for good. “I think everyone can benefit from David Mazor’s gift,” she said.

© 2010 Gallup Independent

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