Thursday, July 24, 2014

Books Make a Difference at the Dad's Make a Difference Celebration

Is there anything better than a bright sunny day and a free book giveaway?

Reader to Reader's Family Literacy Director, Katy Moonan, gave away hundreds of books at the Dad's Make a Difference Celebration in Springfield, Massachusetts.

This book giveaway was made possible through the support of the F.I.S.H. Foundation, Inc. and the Xeric Foundation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Video Highlights of the 2014 Athena Interactive Literacy Program

Reader to Reader's Athena Interactive Literacy Program works with teen mothers from Holyoke, MA, and combines personal literacy and family literacy with healthy eating and cooking.

A special thank you to Chef Bill Collins and Northfire Recording Studio for their donated services.

The Athena Program is made possible thanks to Florence Savings Bank,  the F.I.S.H. Foundation, Inc., PeoplesBank, and the AEC Trust.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Two years ago, David Mazor dropped me off three hours west of Albuquerque, a mile and a half up in the high desert. It rained that evening. It was quiet, and the air smoldered with the smell of sage. I'd asked David a hundred times that summer what I would do here. He said that I'd find out when I came. I'd listen and I'd know.

To my last day, I couldn't really tell you what my job was. My business cards say "Navajo Nation Outreach Coordinator." I didn't know that I'd:

- witness a dozen students improve their creative writing through our weekly Writers' Workshop meetings and celebrate their progress with a year-end, well-attended CoffeeHaus

- raise average school-wide ACT scores from 25% below NM and AZ state averages to above state and national averages

- watch an endless stream of books and resources from Reader to Reader fill classrooms and libraries

- travel around the Navajo Nation with the Office of the First Lady to deliver college readiness materials and addresses

- work with the incredible board of the Miss Navajo Council, an organization that mobilizes former pageant winners to give back to their communities

- learn to make frybread (poorly)

- watch my freshmen grow in their writing abilities and put together a magazine of their work

- prepare my shyest students for scholarship interviews

- take the Writers' Workshop to hear writing advice and performances by Luci Tapahonso, Navajo Nation Poet Laureate

- see 97% of SMIS' class of 2014 go on to college

- grow to love those seniors like my own siblings

- and be heartbroken to see them go

... and much more.

My last two years with Reader to Reader won't be my last in the Navajo Nation. Through working with Reader to Reader, I've become interested in ethical, efficient management. This fall, I'm headed to the Yale School of Management to get an MBA with a focus on social enterprise and nonprofit management. After my program, I plan to return to the reservation and work on a project to improve food sovereignty. There - now that I've said it, all of you can hold me accountable.

This post is more about me than I would've liked. Still, it's hard to extricate myself from my last two years. On some level, I want to talk strictly about the honor it has been to represent Reader to Reader in what has become my surrogate home, and what more we could watch unfurl and progress. But that wasn't all. It hasn't become a home because of improved statistics and partnerships formed. We shared a mission, and we fought for it, and we grew to love and respect each other because we did our best to listen. After all, that was my first instruction on the job.

The Navajo Nation is often characterized by poverty and hardship, but that's merely one facet of a diamond. I'm learning to listen, and in these last two years, that listening has allowed me to witness the intense dedication and talent of others, and to learn more than I thought possible. Every day, I'm humbled anew.

On my last night, my friends and I slept on the roof of our trailer. We had unexpected company - friends from over the hill. They talked, and we listened. We talked, and they listened. It grew late, and wind rattled the brush. Our dogs howled and took off across the field, and the cows lowed. A mile and a half closer to the stars, am I any closer to hearing supernovae? Three hours west of Albuquerque, does the universe seem silent, or can I incline my heart to the glory of stars being born, of giants rising, of light unceasing to illuminate the darkest corridors?

--Ophelia Hu

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Yes! The Books Are Free!

“How much are the books?”

“Are these really free?”

“How many am I allowed to take home?”

These were the questions we were excitedly asked all afternoon at Family Fun Day last week in Holyoke, where Reader to Reader gave out almost 400 books. Families with children from infants to teenagers were invited downtown to Heritage State Park to take part in fun kids’ activities and talk to representatives from local organizations. 

Reader to Reader ‘s table was stacked high with children’s, young adult, and adult books,  surrounded by an eager crowd of children and parents the entire afternoon! Everyone enjoyed themselves pouring over the books and selecting their favorites to take home.

Parents talked amongst themselves about how much their young children loved reading out loud together, and how happy they were to add new selections to their home reading options.

One mother with two young toddlers said she was relieved and grateful to have the new books to keep, because she gets so worried that her babies will tear the pages of library books that she finds it hard to enjoy the time spent reading with them.  

Meanwhile school age children were bursting with enthusiasm looking through the piles as they found books about some of their most beloved characters, books focusing on a theme that they were interested in, or something new that sparked their curiosity. 

Two of the most passionate young readers we met, a fifth grader and a seventh grader, circled back again and again over the course of the afternoon, checking if it was okay for them to take another book home with them.

Of course the answer was yes! Go forth and read! 

Funding for our Massachusetts book donations comes from the Xeric Foundation and the F.I.S.H. Foundation, Inc.