SGA fights for child literacy

The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to printed materials, according the International Reading Association.

MCG’s Student Government Association and Graduate Student Organization are jumping into that fight for access by partnering with Bundles of Books, an Augusta-based non-profit that provides quality reading material to underprivileged children.

Bundles of Books identified a group of quality books appropriate to each age group, and bundled them into affordable packages for individuals to sponsor. SGA will collect sponsorships from noon to 1 p.m. through Sept. 24 at the Greenblatt Library and the Student Center.

Amy Hartle, a student in the School of Nursing, is the SGA Humanitarian organizing volunteers to man the booths. She said Dr. Carol Campbell, professor of health informatics, and Dr. Kevin Frazier, vice president for student services and development, came to her with the idea, and she leapt to help.

“I think it’s very essential. I’m a big believer in giving children opportunities, especially with the public school system struggling the way it is today. I came from California from a low socio-economic background, and I like to give back to students from the same background,” she said.

Hartle said she was in the target market for this program when she was growing up: low income and uninterested in reading for pleasure. But in high school, satirical poets such as Alexander Pope grabbed her attention.
“The stuff that everyone hated, I thought was hilarious,” Hartle said. The humor prompted her to read more, and gradually she was drawn into other books, with characters and stories about which she cared. To Kill a Mockingbird, which is included in the bundle for eighth graders, was one of those.

Colleen Carey, a graduate research assistant in the Center for Biotechnology & Genomic Medicine, is working on the project in her role as social chair of the Graduate Student Organization. She laughs that people often joke about her reading.

“Over half of my ‘Christmas list’ usually consists of books.  Most of the graduate students here at MCG share an overall enjoyment of reading,” Carey said. “Through the GSO it is our hope to have the graduate students personalize their donations with such stories as inspiration of how far one’s joy of reading can take you academically.”

And that academic success is the whole point of Bundles of Books, according to Campbell.

“There’s a connection between learning to read and having the opportunity to be a student at MCG. So if elementary school students are going to have an opportunity to work themselves out of their situation, reading is going to be an integral tool,” she said.

And that’s why the books in each bundle – Charlotte’s Web for second graders and Where the Red Fern Grows for fifth graders – are chosen. They are consistently cited as books that inspire children to love reading. One of Campbell’s favorites, The Velveteen Rabbit, is included in the bundle for kindergartners.

“This story is really about love and friends. While lots of things are important, love and friendship are the most important because these are the things that make us real,” Campbell said. It’s a story with timeless appeal.

Included in each group of enduring children’s literature is a note from the bundle’s sponsor detailing how a particular book may have influenced them as a child, and how it – or reading, in general – might have lead to the career path that they’re pursuing at MCG.

“Perhaps that would motivate one of these children to continue to pursue reading,” Campbell said.
With a generous discount from area bookstores, the organization gives each child three books during the winter holiday season.

In previous years, the organization has been able to provide books for more than 150 area children. In this first year of the campus initiative, they hope to surpass that amount.

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