Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chef Bill Brings Smiles to DiscoverBooks

Chef Bill Collins visited Reader to Reader ‘s DiscoverBooks Program at Kelley Elementary in Holyoke, MA. The energetic chef helped the participants explore healthy eating and cooking.

The 5-week summer program for parents and children combines family literacy activities with a host of hands on activities and is run by Reader to Reader's new family literacy coordinator, Katy Moonan.

In addition to Chef Bill, the program’s partners include the Holyoke Public Schools, the Holyoke Food & Fitness Policy Council, and the Enchanted Circle Theatre.

The DiscoverBooks Program is funded in part by a grant from Mary Ann Cofrin and the AEC Trust, and the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.

Funding for Chef Bill Collins is provided through a partnership with the Holyoke Food & Fitness Policy Council, one of nine collaboratives being funded by the Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Community program which focuses on creating healthy places where all children thrive.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Computers for E.N. White School

Hilary Russell, principal at E.N. White Elementary in Holyoke, MA, surveys her four refurbished Dell Optiplex computers donated by Reader to Reader.

The computers will be used as part of the school’s new Family Resource Center. The center will host Reader to Reader’s DiscoverBooks Program beginning this fall. New family literacy coordinator, Katie Moonan, will work with parents and young children to develop literacy strategies that prepare their children for kindergarten.

The DiscoverBooks Program is funded in part by a grant from Mary Ann Cofrin and the AEC Trust, and the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Essay: Class Lite

By Robert Erwin
Guest Essayist

Few of the viewers enthralled by the teledrama Downton Abbey will come right out in favor of exploitation and domination. Their reluctance could cause uneasiness, because much of the story to which they are riveted has to do with the relationships between masters and servants in class-bound Edwardian England.

Not to worry. Clever scriptwriters sprinkle signs throughout Downton Abbey that the upper-class characters care about their servants and have at least a rudimentary sense of fairness. And the scriptwriters humanize the lower-class characters with plenty of intrigue, romance, and ambition. Furthermore, they omit or skirt around a good deal of drudgery. No one is emptying chamber pots, blacking boots, getting up at dawn to light fires.

Yet if the aim had been to document rather than entertain, daily life and routine attitudes in the great house would look rather different. Even ordinary objects such as books and apparently innocent activities such as reading would be saturated with class discrimination.

In the real world from which Downton Abbey was extracted, servants were expected to dust books but not read them. Because of the menial tasks in which they were engaged, their hands might be soiled and in any case were thought very likely to be coarse.

A hundred years or so before the period in which Downton Abbey is set, there had been more or less practical reasons for the dust-but-don’t-touch rule. Relatively rare and expensive, bound in leather and printed on heavily taxed rag paper, a book was classified as an owner’s asset or investment. Because schooling for common people was skimpy, most servants in the earlier period had no use for books except damaged or discarded ones from which paper might be taken to line pie pans or wipe spills.

With the spread of schooling and the coming of wood-¬pulp paper and mechanical presses, there was still the matter of privilege—important enough to keep the rule in force. From the master’s viewpoint a servant leafing through a book was shirking his or her rightful labor. Meddling with a gentleman’s books was regarded as offensive as eavesdropping on his conversations. If servants read books of their own in their little rooms at night, the master and mistress assumed they were probably reading trashy adventure stories and romances. If any such literature percolated upward to younger members of an aristocratic family, those youngsters would be told that reading of that sort was as bad as associating with low, vulgar companions.

If you want to pass time scoping out the clothes of yesteryear and seeing pretty good actors simulate flirtation, anguish, etc., fine. Go on watching Downton Abbey as you have been. If, however, you want to get a fuller sense of the time and place to which Downton Abbey refers, you might start by thinking about objects and protocol you hardly noticed before.

Books certainly. (If any are shown—the British landed gentry were not known for intellectual zeal.)

That rug at the bottom of the screen. Was it looted from some corner of the Empire? Somebody on staff has to brush it every day before dinner.

Those bedsheets that flash by in sickbed scenes. Were they made with cotton grown by American sharecroppers? Somebody washes them by hand in a tub.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Amherst group Reader to Reader sends more books, computers to Navajo Nation

Staff Writer
Daily Hampshire Gazette

Thursday, July 12, 2012

AMHERST - A truck loaded with 15,000 donated books and 21 personal computers left a Holyoke warehouse Monday and is expected to arrive at the Navajo Nation Library in Window Rock, Ariz., on Friday.

From there, the books will be distributed to libraries, schools, community centers and jails over the 26,000-square-mile area with a population of 300,000 in three states. The computers are destined for a school in Thoreau, N.M.

This is the sixth time that library director Irving Nelson has come to the Pioneer Valley to pick up books collected by Reader to Reader of Amherst. Since 2003, the organization has collected and donated 5 million books, worth about $50 million, and about a fifth of them have gone to the Navajo Nation, said David Mazor, the founder and executive director.

"We've made a commitment to these communities to bolster their resources in a substantial way," he said. Reader to Reader has focused on the Navajo Nation because tests of their children's reading ability are substantially below the national average, he said.

It costs the Navajo Nation about $4,000 each time Nelson flies to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn., rents a 26-foot truck, loads it up and drives back to the Southwest. But Mazor estimated the value of the books and computers on this trip at $250,000.

Reader to Reader gets books from publishers, donations and library sales and sometimes buys them, Mazor said. About 40 percent of the 15,000 books on their way to the Navajo Nation are new, while the used computers were donated by Amherst College and have new software in them, he said. Most Navajos do not have computers in their homes, he said.

Mazor visited the Navajo Nation Library last spring to compile a list of books that would strengthen the collection, he said. Reader to Reader spent $2,000 on specific titles that it couldn't acquire by donation, he said.

Nelson was in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday morning with Everett Etsitty, a library employee who is helping him drive the truck. Nelson said Mazor has had a big impact on literacy efforts in the Navajo Nation.

"As we're flying over the country, I looked down from the plane and thought how there are millions of people out there, and David is one of those tiny specks down there, but out on the Navajo Nation he's the Jolly Green Giant that towers over the reservation," Nelson said.

Nelson and Etsitty were heading for Washington, D.C., where they expected to pick up more books at the National Museum of the American Indian on Tuesday.

Reader to Reader has its offices at the Cadigan Center for Religious Life at Amherst College, and stores about 10,000 books there. It often gets walk-in donations, Mazor said.

"I get calls almost every day from someone who wants to bring books to us, from all over the area and the country," he said.

Reader to Reader donated more than a million books to schools and libraries in New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina. This year, it has donated books to Ghana and Costa Rica, and also to schools in Holyoke, Springfield and Chicopee.

Nelson said Mazor is helping the Navajo Nation at a basic level because reading is the foundation of education.

"We're so fortunate that we're working with him, and it's improving our library tremendously," he said.

Daily Hampshire Gazette © 2012. All rights reserved

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

15,000 Books, Computers, on the Way to Navajo Nation

Seven months of book collecting, including hundreds of hours sorting and packing boxes, came to a conclusion with a 3-hour frenzy of loading, as the latest shipment of books headed off to the Navajo Nation Library in Window Rock, Arizona.

The shipment of 15,000 books and 21 computers will benefit libraries, schools, community centers, senior centers, and correctional facilities all across the 27,000 square-mile Navajo Nation.

“We are so excited here at the high school we can hardly contain ourselves,” said Susan Clement, principal of St. Michael Indian High School in St. Michaels, Arizona. She adds that she is expanding her school library into an additional room in anticipation of the 69 boxes of books and 5 computers that will be coming from Reader to Reader for the library. An additional 17 computers will be used to build a new computer lab for the school.

The fourth shipment in Reader to Reader’s Navajo Nation Book Drive, the donation brings the total donation to 60,000 books to date. Reader to Reader’s ultimate goal is 100,000 books.

Irving Nelson, the director of the Navajo Nation Library, flew to Hartford, Connecticut and rented a truck in order to transport the books on their 5-day journey to the Navajo Nation. His 12-hour days of driving are shared with library employee Everett Tsosie.

“We are so pleased to work in partnership with the Navajo Nation Library in order to bring this valuable resource to the people of the Navajo Nation.” Said David Mazor, Reader to Reader’s founder. “This donation has a value of over $200,000 and working together we have been able to provide this rich resource very economically.”

Based in Amherst, Reader to Reader is a global literacy organization that has donated 5 million books across the United States and in 14 countries.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Norton Juster Shares Art of Storytelling at Athena Program

Norton Juster, author of the children’s classic The Phantom Tollbooth, shared the art of story writing with the teen mothers participating in Reader to Reader’s Athena Interactive Literacy program. He also spoke about the importance of reading to your children.

This year’s 6-day Athena workshop combines family literacy and songwriting, with an exploration of healthy eating and cooking. The mothers also receive a large number of books to share with their children.

Norton Juster was an immediate hit with the teen mothers, who loved his warm and folksy manner. One of the mothers said, “I wish he was my grandfather!” Each of the teen mothers received a copy of his children’s book The Hello Goodbye Window, which he signed for each of them. The young mother that had wished that he was her grandfather asked him to sign it “Grandpa Juster,” which he did.

Funding for the Athena Program comes in part from PeoplesBank.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Athena Program Features Songwriter Robin Lane

This year’s 6-day Athena Interactive Literacy Program features the dynamic Robin Lane (of Robin Lane and the Chartbusters fame) and the ever popular Chef Bill Collins.

Reader to Reader's Athena Program works with teen mothers from Holyoke, Massachusetts and focuses on building personal and family literacy skills combined with healthy eating and cooking.

The program also includes a visit from renowned children’s author Norton Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth) to talk about how children’s books are written, and a day exploring a college campus.

Robin Lane is working with the teen mothers on songwriting, and the first order of business is a group song.

Chef Bill kicked off the cooking with an exploration of the ever versatile egg.

Funding for the Athena Program comes in part from PeoplesBank.