Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Thanks to the hard work of eight Scarlett Middle School sixth graders in the Make a Difference Club, hundreds of local preschoolers and their families will receive gently used books and learn that reading is part of a healthy childhood.
The students have collected 2090 books from Scarlett students and staff for the Reach Out and Read program at the University of Michigan, which provides books for children at local clinics.
Aaliyah Diarra, 12, said she was eager to join the Make a Difference Club when she heard about it at the start of the school year.
“It made me feel like I have power and I can use it in a way to help others,” she said, just before she helped carry boxes of books out to a car to be taken to clinics that work with U-M. “It really makes you feel good about yourself because you know you’re making a difference for others and when you see how that can impact others as well, that’s cool.”
Reach Out and Read, a national program with a chapter at U-M’s Center of Human Growth and Development, prepares preschoolers to succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe books and encourage families to read together. Health practitioners advise parents about the importance of reading aloud with their children every day and give developmentally appropriate books to children.
Scarlett teacher Susan Schmidt was involved with the program when she worked in Lansing, and was happy when the Scarlett students this year were eager to do their part.
Schmidt, who teaches language arts and literacy to learning-disabled students and advises the Make a Difference Club, helped the students make informative Power Point presentations, which they then presented to all home rooms.
“This was a lot of work on their part,” she said, standing beside boxes of donated books.
Maryam Fasina, 12, agreed that she and the other students worked hard all year to make the book drive successful.
“At first, we started presenting to classes and said, `This is what we’re doing and we hope you can donate books to give to the clinics,’” she said. “After that, we put boxes in all the rooms, and then counted them all. The class with the most books gets a pizza party.”
After sorting through the books to choose those that fit the criteria of the program, Scarlett donated more than half to Reach Out and Read Clinics. The rest will go to charitable organizations.
The books will be distributed at the following Reach Out and Read clinics:
U-M Ypsilanti Health Center
Corner Health Center -Ypsilanti
IHA Pediatrics – Arbor Park, Ypsilanti
U-M Briarwood Center for Women and Children
U-M East Ann Arbor Health Center
U-M West Ann Arbor Health Center
U-M Dominos Farms Family Medicine
U-M Saline Health Center
U-M Howell Pediatrics and Teen Health Center
U-M Canton Health Center
U-M Brighton Health Center
U-M Northville Health Center
Rosa Ball, who coordinates the Reach Out and Read program at U-M, said she’s impressed with all the work the sixth graders donated to the cause.
“It’s not just a great program to give out books to kids, but it’s actually helping kids become ready for preschool and come out with bigger vocabularies,” she said. “So this donation is not only a big boost to our program, but the students also spread awareness of the importance of early literacy development among their peers—which I think is just as important. We’re so grateful.”