A couple of months ago, The Leader alerted its community to a local foundation’s plans to combat the lack of library and book access for less-advantaged students with the community’s help — and the community did its part, leading to a joyous reveal last week.
On Wednesday, March 8, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation surprised students at Browning Elementary in the Heights for their “My Home Library” distribution day. Each one of Browning’s 558 students received their own little bag of free books. My Home Library is a web-based tool providing a solution to home libraries being out of reach for economically disadvantaged children.
Through the My Home Library platform, children created a wish list of books for their very own home library, and the community sponsored each child’s home library of six books by making a $30 taxdeductible donation.
“When their names were called and they came up to get their bag of books, they ripped the bag a little bit, pulled the books out and immediately started reading them,” BBHLF President Julie Baker Finck said with a smile and hearty laugh. “They started looking at what each other had but then immediately started reading, which I would consider a huge success.”
While the Foundation embarks on dozens of similar expeditions each year, Finck said the smiles jumping across each child’s face as they eagerly rip into their goodie bags never ceases to put her in awe.
“It’s just so moving to be able to see the children so excited, to be book owners and to talk about the books they had chosen. They were so excited to read,” she said. “Some of them spread out on the floor and were on the stomachs, some had the books open in their laps or held up in their faces. It was just such a special day to be able to enjoy with the students.”
Additionally, Houston author Melissa Williams stopped by to read to the children, a move Finck said was not without purpose. From sharing how she came up with characters to explaining how the things in her life shaped her book’s setting, Williams attempted to light a creative fire in Browning Elementary students.
“Good readers make better writers, so I think that was one of the things she conveyed, was that inside every child, they do have that creativity. She (Williams) really wanted to ignite that inspiration through them by sharing her book and why it was written as it was,” Finck said. “Everyone has things happening in their life, and she talked about how you can choose a main character and about the setting and the dynamics around writing a book. She tried to instill that in the children, and got them so excited.”
Many of the children, Finck said, also had chosen one of Williams’ books as part of their wish list, so to see her and listen to her stories was an added bonus to the experience.
“She had a long line of children wanting her to autograph her books. It was just a very special event, for them to not only read a book but to know how the process of writing happens and get that inspiration,” she said. “To meet an author and have her sign some of their books was just kind of the cherry on top for the children that day.”