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!
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!
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.
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