Thursday, April 29, 2010

Maine High School Student Joins Beyond el Campo

We are so pleased to welcome Julia Springer of Cape Elizabeth, Maine to the Beyond el Campo project, which is building a community library in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

A Cape Elizabeth High School senior, Julia is heading to the Honors Program at the University of Delaware next fall.

It is people like Julia, whose heart is first and foremost in it for the community, that Beyond el Campo, and Reader to Reader is proud to call part of our team.

Julia wrote a wonderful essay that explains her love for the people of Santa Cruz.

My name is Julia Springer, and this is my story of becoming forever attached to the people of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

A few summers ago, I realized I needed a change in my life. I needed to immerse myself in a different culture, to put myself wholeheartedly into something that would help others, and to take a step out of my comfort zone. This mission, hopefully resulting in a discovery of purpose and an appreciation for life, landed me in the small, coffee-farming village of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

From the moment I met my host-family and project advisors I knew that any ounce of nerves I had had were insignificant. Never in my life had I been greeted by such welcoming arms, or treated with such compassion. The people of Santa Cruz taught me the true value of optimism and simplicity. They were always positive and considerate, no matter what the circumstances. They wore smiles even when I trucked mud through the house accidentally, and always made sure everyone was given a hug and kiss goodnight.

Spending time with the families in Santa Cruz and getting to know the children and teenagers of the town re-introduced me to the meaning of love, family, hard work, fun, and most importantly, inequality. I was amazed by the endless entertainment that was found from sitting around my host-family’s kitchen table playing cards, as we attempted to teach each other simple games from our respective childhoods (after only two years of Spanish, I had trouble explaining why we call a game ‘go fish,’ or ‘va a pescar’). They included me in their daily activities, including cooking dinner and going on evening walks. In a matter of hours, they made me an integral part of their family, despite the language barrier or cultural differences.

As I spent time with my host-brother and his friends, I saw how seriously they took their education, but also the disappointment in the knowledge that no matter how hard they worked, their resources were limited and that many of them wouldn’t even graduate or reach college. Listening to them talk about their school, teachers, materials and futures, and comparing them to those of my own, I was struck by the scarcity of resources and opportunities they had. I thought about my own school: the new calculus textbooks, the dozens of shiny laptops for research, and the free tutoring services. I also realized how many of my peers, and regrettably myself included, took these valuable resources for granted. I had never stopped to appreciate how my teachers were willing to stay after school to help me, or the immense amount of research I could do just out of my own school’s library. I couldn’t imagine my education without these programs and materials, and it broke my heart to see that these kids, who were some of the hardest workers I had ever met, didn’t have the same opportunities as I did.

During the end of my senior year of high school, I was given the opportunity to spend two weeks doing whatever type of community service or internship I wanted. I immediately realized that this was my chance to give back to a community that had given so much to me. I was finally going to be able to help the people that I feel forever indebted to by helping raise money for the Beyond el Campo project. I thought back to the conversations I had with my peers in Santa Cruz about their education and dreams of reaching college. I am honored to have the opportunity to make these dreams a reality for them and to give back to the incredible town of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I thank you and your organization for your outstanding efforts

Dear Mr. Mazor,

On behalf of the school children of New Mexico, I would like to thank Reader to Reader for the generous donation of 37,000 new K-12 children’s books to the schools in the Gallup-McKinley County School District.

This massive donation will be a tremendous boost to our schools. Education is the key to preparing our children for the challenges of the future, and I thank you and your organization for your outstanding efforts to improve the resources of New Mexico’s schools.


Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
United States House Representatives

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beyond el Campo Gets Temporary Library Space

Reader to Reader’s Costa Rica rural literacy project, Beyond el Campo has secured a temporary library space in the town of Santa Cruz.

The space will serve as a reading center and center for all Beyond el Campo's major literacy programs in Santa Cruz, that will be begin at the beginning of July.

Among these programs include a literacy camp for school aged children, a beginner's "reading" hour for toddlers and their mothers, and a women's book club, amongst others. Within the next year, we hope to begin on the construction of the permanent library space, which will be two floors and provide a spacious work environment.

Reader To Reader works together with local community members in rural Costa Rica in an effort to strengthen their access to books and over all literacy rate.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Still More To Do

By Erny Zah
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, April 15, 2010

In the back of the Navajo Nation Library sits a room that can only be accessed with a magnetic card. The room doesn't seem like much when the door opens, just dull white walls filled with brown filing cabinets.

But five of the filing cabinets have some archived information that Navajo Nation Library Director Irving Nelson calls "The Navajo Nation Encyclopedia," a collection of about 3,000 hours of recordings of Navajo cultural stories, songs and some ceremonies.

"I want to digitize them," he said. Right now, the recordings are only available on reel-to-reel tapes. Another cabinet houses the English-language transcriptions of the recordings, which give detailed information on songs about horses, sheep and even an entire Yé'ii-Bi-Chei ceremony.

Nelson estimates digitizing the tapes will cost about $350,000.

But this project is one of many in the 30-year career that started when Nelson became a library bookmobile driver.

Most recently, he was named Librarian of the Year by Reader to Reader, a nonprofit organization that donates books and computers to libraries across the U.S.

"He's an amazing person, in my opinion, by the sheer dedication he shows to the Navajo Nation Library," said David Mazor, executive director for Reader to Reader. "I don't think there's another library in the nation with a dedicated librarian like that."

Mazor added that Nelson was selected from a pool of 500 nominees nationwide.

"I was very surprised," Nelson said of learning about the honor, but the new award is just the most recent on a list.

He received the Prism Award from the National Museum for the American Indian and also was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums Conference for his continuous work in building the Navajo library program.

He keeps the awards on a table in his office.

Although Nelson has been recognized, Mazor said librarians as a whole seem to work without recognition.

"Librarians play such an unrecognized role," he said. "Every year we feel that librarians are often unrecognized in the tremendous roles they place in the knowledge that comes from reading."

Nelson said he often would work on holidays cataloging books, a detailed process that includes recording the name of the book, publisher, author, subject and even the number of pages it has.

"It's all part of the hard work of cataloging books. That's something the general public doesn't see," he said.

In all, the Navajo Nation Library now boasts a collection of about 76,000 books, making it one of the largest - if not the largest - in Native America, Nelson said.

His next project of digitizing the 1968 audio recordings and transcripts he wants to complete before he retires, he said.

"It's just amazing," he said of the 250-tape collection, of which he's listened to five tapes.

Nelson hopes the Navajo Nation Council will allocate the money needed for the project, though federal and state funding sources also exist. However, if he were to secure funding from those sources, he said, stipulations would include making the information available to the general public including non-Navajos.

"I don't believe the Navajo Medicine Men's Association would allow that to happen," Nelson said.

Although, he sees the digital Diné encyclopedia as a primary project, his dream is to have every chapter house equipped with a library.

"I don't know if that's going to happen in my lifetime," he said.

And true to his calling, Nelson also understands that the library serves a purpose beyond helping people educate themselves. It is also a clean well-lighted place to go for those who have few alternatives.

On Monday morning, the Navajo Nation Museum announced it would be closing early to repair a water line.

"It breaks my heart," he said, motioning to his chest. "I don't know if (the patrons) have any other place to go ... I wish they'd say 'leave the library open.'"

Copyright © 2010 The Navajo Times Publishing Co., Inc.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kids Delight in Spring Book Extravaganza

It’s spring and time for Reader to Reader’s 3rd Annual Spring Book Extravaganza, which kicked off with a ceremony at Patrick Bowe Elementary School.

The annual event donates thousands of new children’s books to students attending elementary schools in Chicopee, Holyoke, Springfield and W. Springfield, Massachusetts.

This year’s Spring Book Extravaganza featured books by award-winning children’s author Stephanie Lisa Tara who donated 6,000 hard cover editions of her gorgeous books. The titles included: Snowy White World to Save, Little Library Mouse, I’ll Follow the Moon, and GWYNNE Fair & Shining.

"Our librarian is very excited,” says Samuel Karlin, principal at Bowe Elementary School in Chicopee, MA. “We are giving out the books during National Book Week and every kid will get to keep a new book. We thank Reader to Reader for making this possible.”

Author Stephanie Lisa Tara has received numerous accolades including the Mom’s Choice Award, DIY Award, Chocolate Lily Award, Golden Ink Award, and Books of Wonder. We are honored to have her books as the centerpiece of this year’s Spring Book Extravaganza.

In addition to Stephanie Lisa Tara we gratefully acknowledge our program sponsors: Chicopee Savings Bank, Comcast, and The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.

Reader to Reader Founding Executive Director David Mazor with Berdie Thompson, Charitable Gifts Coordinator, Chicopee Savings Bank Charitable Foundation)

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do You Do It?

Dear Reader to Reader,

Thank you so much for your generous gift. How do you do it? Do you own a book store? My kids swallowed them up. We even have a list of who gets the book after 'so and so' is done with it. Marcus Garvey School thanks you. Room 312 thanks you and I thank you. Karma is wonderful and I am sure it is heading your way.

Mary Kay Dunleavy
Marcus Garvey School
Chicago, IL

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Reader to Reader Announces the Athena Interactive Literacy Program

We are pleased to announce the Athena Interactive Literacy Program, a new program to be held August 23-27 at Amherst College. This special program works with pregnant and parenting teens in order to build their reading and writing skills, and to explore healthy eating and cooking.

The young mothers in the program currently attend The Care Center in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where they are working on getting their G.E.D.s so they can attend college.

Athena Interactive Literacy Program supplements their studies, giving them a dynamic week of exploration that moves beyond test taking to help them discover the joy of being a student.

The program's theme is "Fiction, Food & Fun" and couples reading and creative writing with an exploration of food that will help them cook and eat healthier.

The program brings together an exciting team of educators, writers, and artists, including noted writing teacher Peter Elbow, and Chef Bill Collins, a graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts with over 15 years professional experience, including the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston.

The students will spend their mornings exploring reading and writing in a variety of interesting settings, including recording poetry at a professional recording studio. They will spend their afternoons with Chef Collins learning to cook healthy food for themselves and their children.

The Athena Interactive Literacy Program is sponsored in part by Peoples Bank.

A special thank you to Chef Bill Collins ( for the generous donation of his services.

For more information contact

Friday, April 2, 2010

Irving Nelson is Reader To Reader's Librarian of the Year

We are pleased to honor Navajo Nation Library Program Supervisor Irving Nelson as Reader To Reader’s Librarian of the Year for 2010.

Mr. Nelson was chosen from the over 500 librarians that participate in the Reader To Reader program for his outstanding service to the residents of the Navajo Nation.

Based in Window Rock, Arizona, Nelson oversees the Navajo Nation Library’s 61,000+ book collection that serves as the primary book resources for an area that covers 27,000 square miles.

Nelson began working at the library in 1978 as the bookmobile driver and over the past 30 years has built an important Native American collection that includes 11,000 books, oral-history tapes and tribal land-claims records that date all the way back to 1675.

“Irving Nelson is an extraordinary individual,” notes Reader To Reader executive director, David Mazor. “This past November he personally flew to Reader To Reader’s headquarters in Massachusetts to drive a truck filled with 10,000 books and 10 computers collected in the Navajo Nation Library book drive back to Window Rock, Arizona. He plans to do it all over again this spring. His dedication to his library and the citizens that use it is unsurpassed. We are so pleased to be able to honor him with our Librarian of the Year award, which he richly deserves.”