What could you buy for $9? A movie ticket? Some fast food? Two coffees? What if I told you for $9, you could buy a student in Washoe County a book for each month they are in school?
Well, that is exactly what I told my friends and family on social media just before my 2018-2019 school year started. I’d always been looking for ways to get more books into the hands of my Firsties (that’s what I call my first grade students), when I came across a post on Facebook from an old graduate school friend. She had come across an idea where every student in her class could receive a book from Scholastic Book Club. Do you remember those colorful flyers that teachers send home each month with books upon books, I sure do. I struggled with sending these flyers home each month, it was always the same students ordering and all the other students wanting to know how “those kids” got “those books.” I was so excited when I found this idea that would solve all those problems.
In the Scholastic Book Club flyers, there is always a $1 book featured, so the idea is to get a friend to sponsor one child by donating $9, a dollar for every month they are in school. Then just get enough friends to cover your class size. This seemed simple enough: I knew I had 19 friends willing to sponsor a child for only $9, but little did I know. Within one minute on social media, I had friends upon friends donating to sponsor one student, three students, ALL the students. As I sat in awe staring at my Facebook page, I knew I was on to something special. By just asking a simple question, “will you sponsor a student for $9?” I was inundated with money. So many friends wanted to help me make my goal, so many friends knowing the importance of early intervention, so many friends wanted to share their love of learning and reading with the future.
It was so powerful, so overwhelming, so spectacular. By the end of the first night, my post on social media had enough money to not only sponsor my first grade class, but pretty close to every first grade student at Double Diamond Elementary in south Reno. I couldn’t believe the power of social media.
Donations Put to Good Use
As the 2018-2019 school year forged on, students did indeed get a new book every month, and the reactions were priceless. It became a tradition in my classroom to read the book together each month and come up with a creative way to thank the more than 25 Facebook friends for their generous donation to our literacy education. I talked to many friends who looked forward to my monthly post on Facebook thanking our community for our love of books. As the year came to an end, I began to receive messages from friends asking if I planned to do the Scholastic Book Club for the upcoming year -- with hopes and pleads. They loved the opportunity to be involved in something so special for so many young readers.
I felt obligated to continue such a powerful opportunity for young readers, so on Aug. 11, 2019, I once again asked the powers of social media to aid me in building a home library for you readers. I wrote “Last school year, more than 25 of my Facebook friends and family helped more than 100 first graders begin to build their own little libraries at home by donating money to my Scholastic Book of the Month Club! The overwhelming support was a milestone in my teaching career! The love and support I received along with my Firsties is a memory I will always cherish! For the 2019-2020 school year, I will be looking again for friends and family to sponsor one of my students.” It goes without saying, I had a huge response. People who watched my posts the previous school year could not wait to get involved. This time around, I had more than 55 -- double the previous year -- donate to sponsor students. Their response and generosity has opened up a whole new level of sharing and building young readers.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
With the support of my social media friends and family, I am able to continue the Scholastic Book of the Month Club in all of first grade, with a little twist. I am choosing a different grade level each month and surprising them with a free book. Every student at Double Diamond Elementary will be receiving a book at some point throughout the school year, while my young readers will continue to receive their free book each month. And as if this story couldn’t get any better, teacher friends all over social media in all kinds of different schools and different grade levels throughout Washoe County have made it their goal, too. We are teaching the future, and with the help of our friends, we are giving them the love of reading and the importance of books.
I wanted to write this story to highlight what an amazing community we live in. It never ceases to amaze me how this community comes together to help each other. I am so thankful to be teaching in such a beautiful place and raising a family where so many people care about others. You don’t have to look far to see the positive and be part of the positive.