Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Navajo Students Explore Writing at Indigenous Book Festival

Ophelia Hu, Reader to Reader’s Navajo Nation Outreach Coordinator, writes about the exciting field trip her students from St Michaels, Arizona took last week.

Last Friday, the extracurricular Writers’ Workshop of St. Michael Indian School (SMIS) attended the Indigenous Book Festival at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. This year’s festival focus was “Authenticity and Indigeneity.”

Nine of the most dedicated Writers’ Workshop attendants were selected to challenge their abilities, improve their writing skills, and learn from masters of the craft.

After a three-hour morning journey, our day began with a high school writing panel, in which the SMIS students had the full attention of two MFA instructors from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and learned valuable techniques for both poetry and prose-writing. One instructor marveled that our students had honed such unique voices.

After the writing panel, the students and I had the honor of listening to a presentation and poetry recitation by Chamoru poet Craig Santos Perez, who wrote on food colonization in Guam. Craig’s concerns reflected a similar food current in the Navajo Nation and many other reservations, and our students appreciated his great performance.

In the afternoon, we split into four panels depending on our interests, ranging from spiritual healing in literature to interviews of famous poets (including the first Navajo Poet Laureate Luci Tapahonso) to weaving cultural histories into modern narratives.

Throughout the day, I’d seen them engage critically with difficult conversations about authenticity, heritage, and literature.   

These young writers have now spent months honing their crafts. This is some students’ second year in Writers’ Workshop. Through their time, they’ve each better crafted the vehicle through which they tell their stories, share their experiences, and relay their hopes. The maturity with which they do so astounds me, and every piece I have the honor of reading or hearing leaves me humbled.

And then, all along the long drive home through the dark, a few girls sing in unison to a One Direction song; howls of laughter come after a silly joke; they learn what hummus and couscous are; they dance in their seats and dream of decorating the dorm rooms they’ll occupy next year. And I remember that, despite all their maturity and potential and talents, they’re still children – incredible children.

(Reader to Reader’s Navajo Outreach Coordinator is funded through the generous support of the Fordham Street Foundation, the Hiatt Family Foundation, and Jean and Lynn Miller.)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Science Books Reach Ghana University

Dear Reader to Reader,

On Behalf of Presbyterian College Ghana, I would like to thank you for the generous donation of science books to the library. Your donation really matched the needs of our library and we greatly appreciate it. The books will be put to great use.

Yours sincerely,

Mrs. Grace Annoh
Presbyterian University College, Ghana

*The titles the library received included multiple copies of the following titles:


The donation from Reader to Reader’s Ghana Book Project was made possible by the generosity of Sinauer Associates, publishers of college-level textbooks and educational multimedia in biology, psychology, neuroscience, and allied disciplines. A special thank you to Sinauer Associates for making this donation possible.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reader to Reader Helps ACT Scores Improve on the Navajo Nation!

Ophelia Hu, Reader to Reader's Navajo Nation Outreach Coordinator, describes the process of teaching SAT prep to seniors at St Michael’s Indian School this year.

We began class ten chairs short and in stifling heat last August in St. Michaels, Arizona. Our task: to improve the ACT scores of St. Michael Indian School's entire senior class with only 250 minutes per week.

For our second year in a row, ACT scores at St. Michael have remained over 1% above the national average, which is a drastic improvement from its standing of over 25% below that average before Reader to Reader began its College Readiness programs at the school.

But the applause certainly doesn't belong to Reader to Reader alone. The accolade belongs to the senior class, who toiled every day, attended optional practice tests in the evenings and on weekends, and achieved impressive personal score improvements. Reader to Reader also provided each student with a free, new copy of an ACT textbook, and both instruction and homework helped students to excel on the test.

I had the privilege of getting to know the remarkable Class of 2014. We worked hard. Not every day was fun. From time to time, students would call in the middle of the night asking for clarification with a concept or to vent about test anxiety. But between recovering math skills and summarizing dense science articles, we had our share of good times, too.

At the end of the course, each senior wrote a letter to the Class of 2015 with their personalized advice for senior year, college readiness, and ACT prep.

The continued success of students at St. Michael shows that all students have a remarkable capacity to grow and learn. We are honored to be a part of that process, and we look forward to getting even more students to take the reins on their future.

Reader to Reader’s Navajo Outreach Coordinator is funded through the generous support of the Fordham Street Foundation, the Hiatt Family Foundation, and Jean and Lynn Miller.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Night of Roses and Fun! Mentor Appreciation Night 2014

Sylvia Ngo, a Reader to Reader mentor with four years of mentoring under her belt, shares her impressions of a recent mentor appreciation event. In the picture (L to R): Sylvia Ngo, Megan Duff, Ashley Hall, and Danielle Trevino.

On Monday, January 27, 2014, Reader to Reader hosted a Mentor Appreciation Night, promising mentors a fun study break after a hectic first few days of classes. In attendance were head honchos Kat Libby, Dennis Quinn, Rebecca Cubells, and a revolving door of mentors. There was delicious cake, hot cider, hot chocolate, and best of all, camaraderie. Arriving mentors were greeted with cheerful hellos, glad you could make it, and a human scavenger hunt. In order to complete the scavenger hunt, mentors had to ask around and collect the names of fellow mentors to whom the facts listed on the sheet applied, like “who’s missing an organ” or “who saw the original Book of Kells.” The stumper of the evening: find someone who has never eaten at McDonald’s. We could not.

The evening ended with a speech from Dennis, who thanked the mentors for their hard work and for the difference they made in the lives of students. Soon to be graduating mentors were honored with special shout-outs: each senior mentor present was called up to the stage, bestowed with a lively and apt title —such as Duckling Extraordinaire, Deputy Queen of the Garage, or Official Revolutionary— and a single red rose. Between the cakes, the much appreciated hot drinks, the great company, and the heartfelt recognition, there was, indeed, much appreciation shown to the mentors.

Mentor Appreciation Night was made possible by a grant from the Mass Mentoring Partnership.