On December 25, I published a post, Teachers Who Keep On Giving, because teachers advocating for students includes giving of themselves each and every day . Today and next Friday, we will publish this incredibly moving story submitted by NCTE member Kathryn Hoffman-Thompson and Donna Donner.
Given the opportunity, children can make anything happen. Place books in front of them and they will read. Place a need in front of them and they will find a way to help. Through this experience, it is clear that we should all have faith in the leaders of tomorrow.
This story begins and continues with children choosing to make a difference.
Thomas isn’t your average 7th grader. He spends his free time exploring the Minnesota woods, reading books that are constantly arriving at his house, and building things. This fall, Thomas noticed that there was a connection between the Little Libraries his mom, Kathryn, was talking about with her Good-to-Great Voxer group and her constant worry that her students didn’t have a place to get books outside of their tiny rural school.
“We can put a Little Library up at your school. I can do it for 4-H,” Thomas offered.
So the planning began. Designing a library that would hold the large picture books the little hands love so much. Making sure the door opened by lifting up—keeping those little hands safe as children snatched a treasure and scurried away with the book. And finally, asking the 4-H Club for a small donation, to purchase books at a local thrift store to stock the Little Library.
As proud as any mom would be, Kathryn proudly shared Thomas’s story with her friends in her Voxer group. The story of a young boy in Minnesota making a plan to get books into the hands of children evolved into the story of children on both coasts determined to share the love of reading and books.
Meanwhile, 1,413 miles away, Donna started a book club for any of her 50 students that were interested. Wanting to remind the kids how lucky they were to have access to books at home, she told her little “lunch bunch” of 27 a story of her friend Kathryn, in Minnesota. She shared how Kathryn’s son built a beautiful Little Library and placed it right by the playground. She told them that the boys and girls loved this Little Library.
“She’s a teacher, just like me. Her students are just like you,” the conversation went. By the end of that very brief conversation, Donna’s students stared, jaws dropped in disbelief that all kids aren’t as rich as they are—rich in books that is.
You can ask anyone there that day, but no one can recall who suggested it: “why don’t we share our books with them?” However, everyone does remember the excitement that erupted and how the book club never did read a book. No, they did something else pretty magical. They collected about 1,600 books to ship to their new friends, 21 hours and 10 minutes away.
They named themselves “Tiger Paws 4 a Cause.” Cute, catchy. Of course, in every good story there has to be a problem. How do you ship so many books so far away? The cost wouldn’t be worth it. One parent got to work persuading large shipping companies to donate shipping. That didn’t go so well. So, Donna and her husband decided to drive the books there over winter break. They would bring their own kids and make an adventure out of it. When the plan was shared with the students, they were envious and wanted to go too. If only!
(To be continued January 15)
Donna Donner is a 5th grade teachers in a suburban, public school in New Jersey, She stays connected and innovative through her social media interactions with accomplished educators nationwide.
Kathryn Hoffmann-Thompson is a 6th grade teachers at a tiny public school in Minnesota where she broadens horizons through her social media connections.