Thursday, February 23, 2012

Springboard Program Adds Rural China Literacy Project

Reader to Reader is delighted to announce the acceptance a new project to the Springboard Program, which brings Five College students into the world of non-profit work through the development and implementation of their own international or domestic literacy project. This program guides students through the entire process, teaching them the skills necessary to lead their own literacy project and giving them unparalleled leadership opportunity.

Catch in the Rye, created by Amherst College student Yi Lu (a.k.a. Louis,) will work with the abandoned children of migrant workers in rural China. Even by the most conservative estimate from government sources, more than 32 million children in China today will grow up without their parents. The absence of parents not only undermines the most basic safety and nutrition needs of children, but also takes a longer – and often unrecognized – toll on their self-expression and self-confidence. They are a generation that is forced to mature before their time.

Yet despite their lonely and loveless childhoods, these left-behind children can hardly find refuge in schools. Understaffed and underfinanced, schools in rural China emphasize rote learning and have very few books as intellectual nourishment in their reading rooms. As a result, many left-behind children, without essential literary and social skills, will abandon schools and join their parents in the cities once they become old enough to work, replicating another generation on the road. During summer, when school is in recess, even this thin layer of protection disappears. For these left-behind children, the season of bounty might as well be the barest.

Through the power of literature and participatory theatre, Catch in the Rye seeks to protect the innocence and joy of children who are left behind in the vast fields of rural China – just as Holden, the protagonist in J.D. Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye, would like to catch children before they fall from the rye field and become adults too soon. Using a variety of activities -- storytelling, improvisations, as well as other theatre games -- the project will engage children in interactive performances of literary texts by exploring their voices, bodies, and imagination.

Other Springboard projects include Beyond el Campo, which has built a public library in the rural coffee-farming village of Santa Cruz, Costa Rica; To Mother With Love, a women’s literacy school for the uneducated mothers of Ikenne, Nigeria, who sacrifice so much for their children; Hope of Haiti, sponsoring Haiti's children and teachers in areas devastated by poverty, as well as the earthquake; and Esperanza, a pioneer of special education programming in the Dominican Republic.

For more information on The Springboard Program visit

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The books that you donated to my class are amazing!

Dear David,

THANK YOU! The books that you donated to my class are amazing. The kids are always asking if they can go to the library. Several students have come up to me with the biggest grins saying that they can read the whole book. They are so grateful and amazed that you donate books to kids across America. The kids have made you some thank you cards. A few of them tried to thank you for a series of books called No David! but, it might be a bit confusing because your name is David.

Again, thank you,

Rebecca Javadi, First Grade Teacher
Marvin L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts
Detroit, MI

Monday, February 13, 2012

5 Computers Donated to Springfield Family Support Programs

Reader to Reader is proud to support The Springfield Family Support Programs of Springfield, MA, with the donation of 5 computers.

The computers come through Reader to Reader’s computer donation program, which supplies refurbished Dell Optiplex 620 computers.

Among the uses of the computers will be online job searches and resume writing.

The Springfield Family Support Programs' executive director, Cindy Storall, coordinator Emily Rodriguez, Family Support Worker Maria Nunez, and volunteer Anthony Rodriguez visited us to pick up the computers and to learn more about resources available to their organization.

SFSP provides family support and education programs to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect by building parents’ nurturing skills and knowledge of healthy child development and connecting families to each other, to their community, and resources.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Obama Administration Grants State Waivers to No Child Left Behind

Yesterday, President Obama announced that 10 states have received waivers to No Child Left Behind (NCLB,) which will remove the requirement that all students will perform at or above proficient in reading and math by 2014. Currently, the nation stands at 32% proficiency according to the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress. With the situation getting increasingly desperate and budget cuts and teacher turnover at an all-time high, there is little chance the country will improve this statistic in two short years. The Center for Educational Policy reports that this year, nearly half of all schools failed to meet standards required by law.

These waivers come as a welcome reprieve for overburdened and underfunded schools.

States receiving the waiver are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. New Mexico was denied a waiver, but is currently working with administration to improve their proposal. 28 additional states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have stated their intent to file for this waiver. Only one state has openly announced their intent not to apply: Montana. (See image for more details.)

Waivers were granted to states whose proposals showed a solid plan to prepare their students for college and careers, set new goals for improving proficiency, reduce achievement gaps and focus support on schools that are struggling. These changes to federal policy mean that there will be more room for innovative reform efforts, the arts, and programs that foster critical thinking and a well-rounded education. Education reform is no longer a “one size fits all” policy.

President Obama’s action to create a more flexible education improvement plan came unilaterally and without the approval of Congress, whose own efforts to reform NCLB have been slow due to bipartisan disagreements. In his announcement, Obama said “if we’re serious about helping our children reach their potential, the best ideas aren’t going to come from Washington alone. Our job is to harness those ideas, and to hold states and schools accountable for making them work.”

The waivers will allow states to implement more flexible programming and reduce the pressure to perform well on standardized tests. Other metrics of success can be used in evaluating student performance, and teachers will be able to teach outside of the test once more. Schools will no longer be held accountable for a lack of adequate yearly progress (AYP,) instead finding more meaningful ways to measure growth and progress.

One of the more positive outcomes of NCLB was the mandate that all schools must test students grades 3-8 and track their performance based on certain subgroups, including students with learning disabilities, minority students, and ELL/ESL students. Under the waiver, 9 states will be able to create a “super subgroup,” putting all of these students in one less-achieving group. Many groups are concerned that this may reduce attention to the individual needs of the more specific subgroups.

Whatever the negative side effects of these waivers, there is a definite reason to celebrate. By September, waivered states will no longer be required to undergo the painful and unjust punishments for under-performance NCLB required. Many schools supported by Reader to Reader have reported the negative effects of having to fire half their staff, firing their principals no matter how wonderful they were, or even having to shut down their school. One school in New Mexico, whose students had responded incredibly to our book donations and mentoring programs, had to cut back their participation in our programs because the restrictions placed on them under NCLB left them no room for creative programming. Reader to Reader anticipates an increase in free-reading programs that will improve the nation’s proficiency in reading, and create more life-long learners.

For information about your state’s testing scores, please visit You can also learn about state and federal scores for individual schools or districts by visiting

(Stay tuned for our next article: 8th grade reading scores and the Mason-Dixon Line.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Win a Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner for Two From Chef Bill & Help Reader to Reader!

For the second year in a row, Chef Bill Collins has generously offered to prepare a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two cooked in your own home with all proceeds from the online auction going to Reader to Reader.

Chef Bill ( is a personal chef in Western Massachusetts. He is offering a four-course dinner to the winning bidder, to be prepared in their home on February 14, 2012. The lucky couple will select the menu, and enjoy an evening of food, fun, and relaxation. Quite often, Chef Bill’s dinners turn into an impromptu cooking lesson. Having a Chef Bill dinner is like having your own cooking lesson TV show right in your kitchen!

Chef Bill will travel anywhere for this dinner. For details, please visit his website,

Chef Bill Collins has operated his business, Chef Bill, Inc, since 2001. He has cooked for many people (including some very famous folks) throughout New England and beyond. He also does cooking lesson parties, cooking lessons, Romantic Dinners for Two, and small dinner parties. He teaches classes for the public at Stonewall Kitchen and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and is a popular celebrity chef on WWLP-TV.

Place your bid at and have an amazing, delicious, fun-filled night while helping us do important work all over the U.S. and across the globe!