Max Greenhalgh - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month - October 2017

Max Greenhalgh.jpg

Please join us in congratulating Max Greenhalgh – Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for October 2017!

Max joined the Words Alive office this past summer for a volunteer internship in development and communication.  On average, he worked ten hours a week, contributing to numerous projects and areas of focus. Max was instrumental in developing our summer content for social media and assisting with blog posts. His professional writing skills added a great new voice to our publications.

Max’s work ethic and commitment was evident in his very first week of interning with us. For one, Max graciously volunteered extra time to help with a huge book giveaway event we were hosting at Golden Hill K-8 School. He not only helped load and set-up hundreds of books, but on the day of the event he was a helpful and energetic presence. Max also used his journalistic sensibilities and helped write a blog post about this incredible event after the fact.

In all his work with us, Max gave 110% and worked with the utmost level of maturity and professionalism.  His writing always impressed us, as did his ability to run with new assignments.  He is a dependable and consistent volunteer, and we have been so lucky to work with him!

Now a senior at Canyon Crest Academy, he continues to contribute to his school newspaper and stay busy with classes and college preparation.  We wish him the best this year, and hope to work with him again in the future.

Check out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Max below :

Tell us a little about the yourself.

I’m Max Greenhalgh, and I am a senior at Canyon Crest Academy. I am the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Pulse Magazine, the student magazine of CCA, and am the Council Chair of the Leadership Council for Teen Volunteers in Action, an organization of middle and high school boys that volunteer at numerous different philanthropies. In my spare time, I love to read, write, and play basketball with my friends. I’m currently working on the college admissions process, and I am applying as a political science major at most of the schools where I’m applying.

How did you get involved with Words Alive?

This past spring, I was looking for an interesting, meaningful way to spend some of my time in the summer. It was a great match given my interests in reading and volunteering.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role(s)?

My role was mostly in the office working on promotional and social media tasks. However, helping at a book giveaway at Golden Hill School was memorable. I really enjoyed working with students and teachers at the school, and suggesting that students looking for books consider books from multiple series that I loved when I was their age. I was able to return to the school about a week later, and some of the kids recognized me and thanked me for coming out to help.

What are you reading lately?

I’ll be honest - I haven’t really had time to dive into a book of my choice recently. However, I find time to read online material and I’ve been reading articles concerning the removal of books like Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird from district reading lists across the country over the years. As someone who really enjoyed reading To Kill a Mockingbird in 8th grade, seeing it taken off reading lists is equal parts troubling and interesting to me. The book promotes diversity, open dialogue, and standing strong on principles, all of which are great messages to send young readers.


Words Alive Welcomes Erin, AmeriCorps VIP Fellow

Erin with Cape Buffalo in South Africa.

Erin with Cape Buffalo in South Africa.


Erin joined the Words Alive Family in early September through the AmeriCorps Program, and will be working us for the 2017-2018 year.  Her focus with the organization will be in volunteer infrastructure, and she will be a fixture at upcoming program and volunteer events.  So far, Erin has hit the ground running - taking on community outreach and recruitment to staff our programs and spread the word about our impact.

We hope you get to meet her soon, if you have not yet!  Now, let's hear from Erin herself!

What intrigued you about Words Alive?

After learning about the wonderful programs and overall mission of Words Alive I immediately knew this was the right place for me. I’m delighted to be working for an organization which not only promotes literacy and fosters a love of reading, but which also takes on the task of placing thousands of books into the hands of hundreds of families and children each year (I’m a firm believer that reading from a physical book is more wonderful and beneficial than any e-reader). I’m amazed to think of the impact Words Alive has on the community through the simple yet powerful act of reading and I am honored to be part of it.

What are you most excited about in your new position?

There are so many things that excite me about working with the Words Alive team! First and foremost, I’m thrilled to work with people who are passionate about bringing the benefits of reading into our community through such amazing programs. I look forward to helping Christina recruit and train more volunteers and I am eager to get into the classrooms to see our incredible volunteers in action. I’m also excited to learn more about non-profit structure and behind-the-scenes operations.

What is your relationship with literacy?

As a child I always had my nose in a book, most often historical fiction or books about the natural world (my degree is in Wildlife Conservation Biology).  My adult nose tends to be in fewer books but I still love reading and cherish its ability to easily transport one to new places and times. In the last several years I’ve waded through mostly college textbooks but with my recent graduation I hope to return to one of my favored pastime; leisure reading historical novels.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood. It’s about the many adventures of the pirates who sailed the high seas of the Mediterranean during the 17th century. 


Erin feeding Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Tasmania.

Erin feeding Eastern Grey Kangaroos in Tasmania.


Currently, there are no employment opportunities at Words Alive, but we are ALWAYS recruiting for wonderful volunteers to work in the classrooms with our students and families. Check out how to get involved as a Words Alive volunteer!

Kitty McGee - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month - September 2017

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Please join us in congratulating Kitty McGee – Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for September 2017!

Kitty joined the Words Alive Event Committee this past spring, and jumped right in as a new member, contributing her graphic design skill set.  She has a wealth of corporate design experience which she generously applied to the creation of our wonderful Author’s Luncheon and Fundraiser event material as well as general Words Alive outreach collateral. We offered a new feature at the event this year – the Words Alive Passport – which Kitty designed as well.  The passport was a huge success and encouraged guests to visit each table to learn about the work of the organization.  Kitty has also been a great new source of special event expertise, and helped with soliciting silent auction items for the event.

Kitty has been an integral part of this committee and organization, providing fresh ideas and perspective.  She volunteered to support at the event as well.  We are so grateful for her volunteer service and her part in our successful event!  Thank you, Kitty!

Check out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Kitty below:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a freelance graphic designer, with a specialty in editorial and corporate print design. I am the former art director of several magazines, including American Airlines American Way, America West Magazine, TWA’s Ambassador magazine, Arizona Trend, and Texas Homes. I received my degree in journalism from Northern Arizona University, and am currently a licensed private pilot and a member of BIA Toastmasters.

Though currently attempting to retire, I still have a few clients/friends who keep me busy. I am now available to pursue some pro bono work when not traveling, riding a boogie board, or paddling a kayak.

How did you get involved with Words Alive?

I first heard of Words Alive through one of my book clubs, and then followed through with Andrea MacDonald, who happens to be the daughter-in-law of my neighbor. (It takes a village……!)

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role(s)?

The most rewarding part of this particular volunteer role is the ability to bring a level of professional design to a group that wouldn’t normally have access to it due to economics. And then to delight those clients is priceless!

What are you reading lately?

What’s on my nightstand?  Well, Salman Rushdie of course!  Along with The Soul of an Octopus (Sy Montgomery, found at the Atlanta Aquarium), and The Little French Bistro (Nina George, from a Warwick’s event).

Katherine Finley - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month - August 2017

Katherine Finley, second from left, pictured with Words Alive staff at the 2017 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Awards Ceremony.

Katherine Finley, second from left, pictured with Words Alive staff at the 2017 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Awards Ceremony.

Please join us in congratulating Katherine Finley Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for August 2017!

Katherine Finley came to Words Alive in the summer of 2014 – an avid reader and lover of books, looking for a fun way to spend her summer and get some experience. Since then, we have had the sincere pleasure of working with Katherine as an intern each summer!  She devotes countless hours in between school months to work on a variety of things for our programs and operations.

Teen Services programs are set up for a strong start thanks to Katherine’s dedication this summer. From invitations to decorations, she was instrumental in the planning of the award ceremony to honor and celebrate our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship recipients. She also compiled resources and back-to-school gifts for the students. For the Adolescent Book Group, she has served on the curriculum committee, working on our project to expand curriculum guides for volunteer facilitators.

Throughout the school year, Katherine has also coordinated and worked at numerous outreach events – always staying engaged with our mission and community.  Katherine even built a relationship with the La Jolla Farmer’s Market and positioned Words Alive at the market front, offering reading material to families and information about our programs to interested patrons.

Starting in September, Katherine heads up north to attend Stanford University for her freshman year of college. We are excited to follow her growth and the wonderful things she will take on in this next chapter.

We thank you, Katherine, for your commitment to the community and the generosity you've shown over the past few years.  Words Alive has been lucky to work with you, and we wish you the best at Stanford!

Check out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Katherine below:

Tell us a little about the yourself.

Although my favorite activity is curling up with a book, my cat, and cup of hot chocolate, I have always enjoyed being part of sports teams and have played on my school’s field hockey team for the past three years. I also love to travel and I’m always planning my next adventure.

How did you get involved with Words Alive?  

I’ve always been an avid reader and when I was a freshman, I was lucky to discover Words Alive. I instantly fell in love with their multi-pronged approach to tackling literacy by reaching students of all ages and backgrounds.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role(s)?  

It is extremely gratifying knowing that I’m working with a cause that helps others discover and foster a love of reading. The impact Words Alive has is especially visible when seeing the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony and hearing the heartfelt stories of students improving their literacy skills and their futures

What are you reading lately?  

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Words Alive and Readers in the Heights

One of the volunteers in the Readers in the Heights program sits with students as they discuss the reading.

One of the volunteers in the Readers in the Heights program sits with students as they discuss the reading.

This summer Words Alive partnered with United Way and the City Heights Partnership for Children to train 30 new volunteers and interns in our Read Aloud Program delivery. The program, Readers in the Heights, ran over four weeks at four different locations in City Heights, reaching approximately 400 children from Kindergarten through Grade 3.

Over two different training sessions, Fran O’Callaghan, Words Alive Read Aloud Program Manager, worked with the 30 new volunteers made up of a large cohort of young people from City Heights. Many shared that they had negative experiences with reading when they were younger and were eager to do their best to make reading a positive experience for the children in the summer program. Some of the volunteers also have children of their own and were excited to bring what they learned home to make reading a fun experience for the entire family.

During the training volunteers created questions to develop emergent literacy skills, developed ideas to bring books to life, learned new techniques in modelling curiosity and wonder, and understood the importance of utilizing group engagement strategies to ensure every child could participate in the read aloud. The training enabled volunteers to delve deeper into the books and to see the array of learning opportunities that could be explored over the course of a 90-minute session.

The Bear & the Piano by David Litchfield, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, and The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, were just a handful of the award-winning books Words Alive selected to share with children taking part in the program this summer.

At Words Alive, we continuously work to make reading matter for our students and families. We also know that learning shouldn’t stop over the summer, and that reading programs are essential in preventing the summer slide. As such, we were proud to collaborate with United Way and the City Heights Partnership for Children on the Readers in the Heights program, and, most of all, we are excited for the 400 children whose summer was enriched through reading.

Join Us in Recognizing the 2017-2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Recipients

Image: Seven of the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Students sit in a row displaying their awards at last year's Scholarship Ceremony. 

Image: Seven of the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Students sit in a row displaying their awards at last year's Scholarship Ceremony. 

While Ulises Izúcar slept at various homeless shelters across the city, college classes weren’t the dreams dancing around in his head. In fact, Ulises wasn’t sure he’d even graduate from high school. Knowing that the two most important people in his life, his mother and older sister, had both dropped out of school, Ulises said he didn’t think his life could be much different. 

“It’s exponentially easier to conform to the standard set by those before you,” he wrote in his scholarship application.

Determined to write a different ending to his story, not only will Ulises start college at Point Loma Nazarene University this fall — he’ll do so armed with scholarship awards he earned by going above and beyond.

One of those awards is the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS). San Diego philanthropist Ruth Westreich created the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program in 2007, with the first scholarships awarded the following year. The program awards scholarships to Words Alive Adolescent Book Group (ABG) program participants to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level.

Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each WAWS recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor, who meets with their student throughout the school year, providing guidance, direction, and often times, a “shoulder” to lean on.

Words Alive is proud to announce that we have awarded $36,000 in scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year. Each of the 13 WAWS recipients will receive a scholarship award ranging from $500 to $5,000. Three WAWS scholars will receive an additional $2,000 scholarship from our Julia & Zoey Shenkman Scholarship Fund.

The 2017-2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program recipients are: Zaphire Alonso-Duarte (San Diego City College), Destiny Frost (California State University - Bakersfield), Dezarae Frost (San Jose State), Rose Gonzalez (San Diego State University), Diana Gonzalez-Soto (San Diego City College), Felicia Hurtado (San Diego City College), Ulises Izúcar (Point Loma Nazarene University), Zaira Martinez (San Diego City College), Venecia Montes (UC Davis), Alicia Osuna Garcia (San Diego City College), Daimeon Rodriguez (San Diego City College), Itzel Vega (San Diego City College) and Domminiece Willis (Southwestern College).

Like Ulises, each of these students have overcome tremendous adversity to make it where they are today. Some of those challenges include: homelessness, familial drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and juvenile delinquency.

Please join us on Monday, August 21st, 2017 from 5:30-7 p.m. for our WAWS Award Ceremony, where we will recognize these 13 remarkable students. The WAWS Award Ceremony will be held in the Shiley Special Event Suite at the San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Boulevard. Photographers welcome. Please RSVP here


Words Alive Author Roulette Authors Announced!

At Words Alive's 14th annual Author's Luncheon on Friday, September 15th, there will be a Author Roulette for the second year running. Those who donate may spin the wheel for the chance to win an author's visit to your book club to answer questions and talk books. Here are the authors that you might just get to invite to your book club:

Neal Griffin is the author of LA Times Bestseller Benefit of the Doubt, which takes an in-depth and challenging look at the issue of police brutality through the lens of fictional characters. His most recent book, A Voice From the Field, follows Detective Tia Suarez as she attempts to bring down a white supremacist human trafficking ring. Griffin uses his 25 years of experience in law enforcement to bring another level of authenticity to his writing. See Griffin's website here.

Elizabeth Cobbs is an acclaimed author and historian who has written seven books in her career. Her most recent book, The Hamilton Affair, tells the true story of Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler and has been named the "Hamilton novel that immediately leaps to the top of the list" by author Joseph J. Ellis. Her first movie, American Umpire, takes a critical look at the role the United States plays in global geopolitics as a sort of 'world police.' See Cobbs' website here.

Ethan Howard is the author of the Opportvnvs Adest series, a science fiction epic based on the Book of Revelations and challenging what we as humans have been taught. He has also written Tales of the Unexpected, a collection of 14 thrilling tales of mystery and thrill. Along with his writing, he is the director of a non-profit transitional housing program for young adults. Howard on Goodreads.

Kathy Aarons is the author of the Chocolate Covered Mystery series, which involves the owners of a chocolate-themed bookstore employing their amateur sleuthing skills to solve crimes. Its current entries are Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, Truffled to Death, and Behind Chocolate Bars. Aarons serves as the President of the Playwrights Project board and volunteers for the CCA Writers Conference. See Aarons' website here

Marivi Soliven is the veteran author of 17 books. Her most recent work. The Mango Bride, tells the story of two women immigrating into the United States, and how their very different lives inevitably intertwine, changing the women forever. The book won the Grand Prize at the 2011 Carlos Palanca Awards for Literature, widely seen as the Pulitzer Prize equivalent of the Philippines. Soliven has also taught creative writing at the University of the Philippines and the University of California at San Diego. See Soliven's website here.

Eric Peterson's debut novel, Life as a Sandwich, was a finalist in the San Diego Book Awards. His most recent book, The Dining Car, won the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Popular Fiction and the 2017 San Diego Book Award for Best Published Contemporary Fiction. The story follows a former college football star's transformation as he works as the bartender for a popular writer and social commentator on the man's private train car. Peterson on Goodreads.

Mike Sager is a writer of ten books and an award-winning reporter. He has served as a staff writer on the Washington Post, a contributing editor to the Rolling Stone, and a writer at large for Esquire. Currently, he is the editor and publisher of The Sager Group LLC. In November, The Sager Group will be publishing The Stories We Tell, a compilation of some of the best work from some of the best women in journalism over the years. See Sager's website here.

Judy Stanigar is a practicing psychotherapist, and she uses her experience in the field to accurately portray the mental processes of characters to create a world that seems truly alive. This is evident in her debut novel, A Quartet in Love, in which the emotions in a college town of the 1970s are stirring and brought to life by humor and sensitivity. Stanigar holds an active private practice along with her writing, and has in the past worked with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Stanigar on Goodreads.

When Joy Stocke and Angie Brenner met, they discovered their mutual loves for history, literature, and local culinary tradition. The two new friends soon set out together on a ten year cultural journey in Turkey, which greatly impacted the way they live and eat now. Together, they published Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking For the American Table, a cookbook with over 100 recipes inspired by the authors' travels and experiences on their Turkish adventure. The book has a 4.75 star rating on Goodreads and a 5 star rating on Amazon. You can find them both at Wild River Review.

Melissa Yancy is the recipient of a 2016 NEA Literature Fellowship, and her short fiction has appeared in One Story, Glimmer Train, Zyzzyva, and many other publications. Yancy lives in Los Angeles where she works as a fundraiser for healthcare causes. Her recent book, Dog Years, has been called "a cause for celebration" by Anthony Doerr. These nine stories juxtapose the miracles of modern medicine against the inescapable frustrations of everyday life: awkward first dates, the indignities of air travel, and overwhelming megastore cereal aisles. Yancy’s personal experience in the milieus of medicine and family services infuse her narratives with a rare texture. See Yancy's website here.

Susan Carol McCarthy is the award-winning author of three novels inspired by true events in Florida history -- Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands, True Fires, and A Place We Knew Well -- as well as the non-fiction Boomers 101: The Definitive Collection. Her work has been widely selected by libraries and universities for their One Book, One Community and Freshman Year Read programs, and adopted by schools in 29 states and 6 countries. “McCarthy blends fact, memory, imagination, and truth with admirable grace.” ~ The Washington Post. A native Floridian, she lives and writes in Carlsbad, California. See McCarthy's website here.

Tammy Greenwood is the author of ten novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and, most recently, the Maryland State Arts Council. Two Rivers was named 2009 Best General Fiction Book at the San Diego Book Awards, and Grace received the same award for 2012. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks; This Glittering World was a January 2011 selection, and Grace was a selection in April 2012. Her eighth novel, Bodies of Water, was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award. She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer's Ink, Grossmont College, and online for The Writer's Center. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters. She is also an aspiring photographer. Greenwood on Goodreads.

Ross R. Moore is a singer-songwriter, storyteller and educator, and a native of Frankfort, Kentucky.  After several years in sales and management he received his MAT and became the long-time educator at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville where he taught and entertained hundreds of thousands of students and visitors from around the world.  After relocating to San Diego in late 2008, he created and for several years coordinated the award-winning San Diego County Library Acoustic Showcase local music series. He performs original music and does programs on the life and music of Woody Guthrie, and has worked with San Diego Folk Heritage.  He currently lives with his wife of 35 years in Solana Beach, and works at the Encinitas Library. Learn more about Moore's book Third Monday in May.

Jennifer Coburn is a USA Today bestselling author of six novels and contributor to five literary anthologies. Over the past two decades, Coburn has received numerous awards from the Press Club and Society for Professional Journalists for articles that appeared in the Washington Post, Mothering, Big Apple Baby, The Miami Herald, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and dozens of national and regional publications. She has also written for, Creators News Syndicate, and The Huffington Post. Coburn lives in San Diego with her husband, William, and their daughter, Katie. We'll Always Have Paris is her first memoir. See Coburn's website here.

Kathy Cooperman performed improv comedy until she “sold out” to go to Yale Law School. For years, she defended innocent (rich), white collar criminals. She now lives in Del Mar with her four young, challenging children. Crimes is her debut novel. You can follow her shameless screed of self-promotion on Twitter @Kathy_Cooperman.

The Authors Roulette won't be the only attraction at the Author's Luncheon. To find out more and purchase your ticket, click the button below:

Kay Gurtin - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month - July 2017

Please join us in congratulating Kay Gurtin – Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for July 2017!

Kay Gurtin is a Words Alive pioneer and veteran volunteer.  She has been with our flagship program, the Adolescent Book Group, since 2005 and has served on the board of directors since 2011.

Going above and beyond, Kay has extended successful programming at her ABG site, where she and her fellow volunteers are leading book discussions throughout the summer months. She also recently facilitated a resume building workshop for students in our other Teen Services program, the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship. Kay and her colleague from Gurtin Municipal Bond Management led an engaging career-readiness session, arming the scholarship students with expert advice as they start to enter the workforce.

On the board, Kay has provided guidance on executive programming decisions, the annual Author’s Luncheon and Fundraiser and marketing efforts.  Kay has been an important part of supporting the Words Alive Author's Luncheon and Fundraiser as our presenting sponsor. She has also taken the time to help secure silent auction items that allow us to raise even more money in support of our programs.

We thank you, Kay, for your commitment to the community and the generosity with which you serve.  Words Alive is lucky to have your leadership!

Check out the Volunteer of the Month interview with Kay below:

Tell us a little about yourself. (Brief introduction)

I have been an active Words Alive volunteer on the ABG front for the last 12 years.  My first volunteer stint was with Lindsay Summit and their amazing teacher, Dawn. I looked forward to my monthly sessions as I loved being with the students, but even more so, loved learning from their perspectives each month. I then segued to the Choice school with 20-year veteran teacher and rock-star, Ben White. As the site-manager at Choice for 6+ years, we had one of the most loyal and consistent volunteer teams in the organization – a lasting bond between students and words alive stalwarts. With Choice closing, I followed Ben White to YDC school, which is a probationary school in Mira Mesa. The learning never stops and it is a challenging experience each month – the students keep us on our toes!  I have also been an active member on the Words Alive Board for the last six years and a mentor to the ABG program. My day job is Head of Recruitment at Gurtin Municipal Bond Management – a proud supporter of literacy and Words Alive.

What are you reading lately?

Just finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It simultaneously tracks two half sisters' lives from Ghana to America over three centuries. Beautifully written and a compelling read. I saw the author speak recently and it sealed my already favorable review of the novel. She shared that books were like unconditional love and “free” at her local library as a child, and influenced her life and career. Plus, I am re–reading The Freedom Writers Diary for my July facilitation at YDC. It has motivated me to re-read the novels the students read and were inspired by in the book – Zlata’s and Anne Frank’s Diary. Fascinating that they can relate the war on drugs and gangs on our streets to the survival of teens in the Holocaust and Bosnia, but most importantly, like the Words Alive mission, the book conveys the success of engagement and making a student feel worthy and acknowledged through reading is the tried and true ticket to success.

Words Alive Gives Thousands of Books to Students at Golden Hill

On Wednesday, June 28th, Words Alive hosted an incredible book giveaway at Golden Hill School. This event was made possible by our partnership with the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA), who chose Words Alive as the recipient of this year’s annual Accio Books campaign, a massive, international book drive and literacy advocacy campaign. Since 2009, members of the HPA have collected and donated over 315,000 books to communities in need and recipient sites have ranged all over the world, from New York to the Netherlands to Uganda!

The students at Golden Hill made a sign for the giveaway event. It says "Golden Hill K-8 School Loves to Read!"

The students at Golden Hill made a sign for the giveaway event. It says "Golden Hill K-8 School Loves to Read!"

Each student attending the giveaway (called the Apparating Library, in reference to the transportation spell in the Harry Potter series) received at least ten free books. There was a wide range of books available, from picture books like Clifford Goes to Hollywood to sprawling epics such as the full Inkspell series. Students came to the giveaway class by class and picked books from the thousands available.

While it was a hot day, the students were happy to step into the heat to scratch their reading itch. Even after the school day ended, many students came directly from their classrooms to the giveaway site when the bell rang, preferring to continue hunting for books rather than heading immediately home. Many students also stopped by the Apparating Library before or after their school day with parents and siblings. In these cases, the entire family was able to pick out new books and expand on their collective home library!

Students, parents, teachers, and volunteers all on the hunt for reading material.

Students, parents, teachers, and volunteers all on the hunt for reading material.

Words Alive received about 7,000 books from the Accio Books campaign, and in total HPA members donated 44,438 books to schools, libraries, and community centers worldwide. Thanks to the generous donations of HPA chapters across the country, as well as the donations of many individual HPA members, not only was this event made possible in the first place but it went above and beyond everyone’s expectations.

Words Alive works with low-income, underserved communities across San Diego county. Many studies have shown that access to books is essential to helping children be successful in school and become life-long readers. However, studies have also shown that in middle-income neighborhoods there are approximately 13 age-appropriate books per child, while in low-income neighborhoods that ratio drops dramatically to one book for every 300 children. This event helped to directly combat the lack of book ownership in low-income communities in San Diego by allowing every student at Golden Hill School to go home with a whopping ten new books each.

Golden Hill is a K-8 Dual Language Immersion school, and is therefore focused on bilingual learning. The school's overall mission, according to their website, is to "create a learning environment where teachers, parents, students and the community collaborate to develop children who are healthy, caring, responsible, lifelong learners and productive members of society." While Golden Hill School is certainly doing a lot of work to achieve this noble mission, the school cannot actively work towards this goals for a few months every year during summer break.

One of the book giveaway’s major purposes was to fight the summer slide, or the gradual falling off of cognitive abilities and literacy of American students during summer break. On average, students lose about a month of the knowledge gleaned from the previous school year over the summer, and it can take two months for these students to catch back up once school starts again in the fall. Roughly two months of reading skills are lost over the summer break, a steeper decline than in any other main school subject. Furthermore, low-income students feel the effects of the summer slide more than middle-income students, partially due to the issues with book ownership that were mentioned earlier. After all, it’s difficult to practice your reading skills if you don’t have access to books at home.

All of these reasons are exactly why we were so excited to host this event. Everyone involved, from HPA staff and chapter members, to Golden Hill and Words Alive staff and volunteers, understood the importance of this event and could see the potential impact. With all of the students taking home so many books to read during the summer, that they were able to choose themselves, we are confident the students of Golden Hill will not see the average two month of reading skills lost this summer. They are also better poised now to start or continue building their home libraries and to becoming life-long readers and learners.

In an email to Words Alive after the event, Maritza Tristan, a Resource Teacher at Golden Hill, stated that the giveaway "was one of the best days at school for our students and community." She further explained that "students, parents and teachers can’t stop talking about" the event, describing it as a "wonderful experience."

This is certainly not a day that anyone involved, most of all the children receiving books, is likely to forget for a long time.

If you'd like to know more about Golden Hill or the Harry Potter Alliance, click the buttons below:



Chuck Jones Center for Creativity - Words Alive Volunteer Team of the Month - June 2017

Please join us in congratulating the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity Words Alive Volunteer Team of the Month for June 2017!

Each spring, Words Alive teams up with a local art leader to provide professional training and arts insight to students in the Adolescent Book Group. This year’s Arts Component theme was “presence” and allowed students to explore how they see themselves in the world through reading and discussing books, writing reflection letters and, finally, creating films. The Chuck Jones Center for Creativity worked with us to teach the students about stop motion animation, develop their skills and create a finished product for the final showcase at the Chuck Jones Gallery downtown!

Check Out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with The Chuck Jones Center for creativity:

1. Tell us a little about the Center for Creativity.

The Chuck Jones Center for Creativity is a 501(c)3 public charity based in Orange County, Calif. Chuck Jones was the creative genius who gave life to Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote and Bugs Bunny along with over 300 animated films. The Center, which he founded in 1999, is a gymnasium for the brain that fosters creative thinking – the thinking behind problem solving and innovation – by inspiring people to exercise their unique creative genius through creativity exercises. Creativity is like a muscle in your brain that needs exercise to get and stay healthy. The stronger that muscle is, the better it works in engaging tasks and solving problems. Our distinctive goal is not to teach the mechanics of art, but to teach creative thinking applicable to all aspects of life for people from early childhood to their golden years.  We build important skills for school age children, support healthy cognitive abilities for seniors, increase work performance in organizations who see the value of pumping up creativity in their ranks and enhance function for children on the autism spectrum.

2. What was the best part of working with our students?

Our creativity is essential to problem solving and very much a part of our presence. Art is a visual language. Our programs are designed to engage students to explore new techniques that can enhance their ability to visually articulate their ideas and personal expressions.  The best part about "Training the Trainers" was the open-minded collaboration between two passionate organizations working toward greater well-being for all youth. Literacy and art are a perfect fit.

Works created by students were thought out, compelling and deeply moving. There was a clear sense of greater understanding to their own presence. While it is the process that matters most, it is when we get lost in that process when we produce at our best.

We are so pleased that many students were able to visit the gallery. Seeing their own work displayed in an iconic gallery offers countless rewards.

3. What are you and your team reading lately?

Robert- “Caravaggio, a Life” by Helen Langdon

Denise- "Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert

Naylene- "Hellboy" by Agatha Christie

Craig- “Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious” by Gerd Gigerenzer

Purchase the anthology and watch the completed stop-motion animation films here!