Hundreds of children throughout northwest Iowa will get books in their hands, thanks to Sioux Center Christian School students.
For the third year, students at the school collected books for Promise Community Health Center in Sioux Center in connection with Literacy Week.
An estimated 508 books were donated to Promise during a culminating, all-school celebration assembly on Friday. The students also collected $75 in donations so that Promise can purchase about 35 more books in Spanish. They also donated $75 to the Tesfa Foundation for books for children in Ethiopia.
The students were excited about the project.
“The best part was getting books for people who need them,” said McKartley Van Vugt, a first-grader.
The project started two years ago as a first-grade project that also involved second-graders. Last year, the project expanded to all of the lower elementary grades. This year, the first-graders spearheaded the project schoolwide for grades K-8.
Jill Van Soelen, the school’s teacher librarian, said the project stemmed from classroom work around persuasive writing, math, and speaking and listening skills – combined with a desire to participate in a formational learning experience.
“The heart of a formational learning experience is to have an experience that connects students to real needs, real people, through real work,” Van Soelen said. “The best part of having a book drive is having the opportunity to look outside our school walls and think about the broader community, in this case Sioux Center. When we realized there were kids in our own community who needed books, we knew this was something we could help with.”
She said the first-grade teachers explored the idea of injustice with their students, noting an inequality in the number of books that children have access to. The students helped provide a solution and developed plans with their teachers for executing a book drive – with students choosing what roles they would like to play in the project.
The first-graders went to every classroom in the school to present about the project and made intercom announcements for a week to ask students to bring in gently-used books or to donate $1 for the purchase of books. They decorated collection boxes and posted information on the hallway television monitors.
It was a valuable learning experience.
“Students are learning to see areas of injustice and work as restorers by trying to fix a problem they’ve identified,” Van Soelen said. “They are the doers and see that they can make an impact even as a 6- or 7-year-old. The students get to practice being justice seekers and community builders and experience making a difference in their own community.”
Promise Community Health Center will use the books in various ways.
They will be used for Promise’s Reach Out and Read program. During well-child visits, Promise’s medical providers talk to parents about the importance of reading aloud to their young children for their development, they offer reading tips, and they give each child an age-appropriate book.
The books also will be given to children as needs arise – maybe they’re frightened about getting a shot or they’re sad because they just had a throat swab test done for strep throat or another sickness. The books also will be available in Promise’s waiting room and exam rooms for children to look at during appointments.
A large majority of Promise’s patients are at or near the poverty line. Nearly half of Promise’s patients are 19 years old and younger. About half of Promise’s patients speak Spanish or another language other than English as their primary language.
Emily Tuschen, chief operating officer for Promise, said the health center is grateful that the school puts on the book drive.
“The students show their generosity and kind hearts by giving a book of their own to benefit a patient of Promise,” she said. “It warms my heart to see the kids on the receiving end light up when they get take a book home. This drive is especially close to my heart because I love Sioux Center Christian and I love Promise; it is a joy to see two great organizations working together to bring smiles to the faces of young kids. Much thanks to the students and teachers of Sioux Center Christian School.”