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Giving a gift that lasts a lifetime

Greenspring volunteers donate books, read to children at local school

Created date

November 26th, 2013
Books and thank-you cards

There are many little ways to enlarge your child s world. Love of books is the best of all. Jacqueline Kennedy Ask any parent or grandparent and they are likely to tell you that one of their favorite activities is reading with their child or grandchild. Yet, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), only 53% of children ages three to five are read to daily by a family member. The NCES found that many of the children not being read to come from families with incomes below the poverty line. When I first heard the statistics I was shocked, says Steve Kirby, who lives at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va. You take it for granted that children grow up reading Winnie-the-Pooh and The Velveteen Rabbit. As chair of the Catholic Council at Greenspring, Steve began looking for a way that he and the community s more than 400 Catholics could help. With the assistance of Dr. Campbell, a parishioner at nearby St. Bernadette s, Steve, and the council s deputy chair, Paul Quinn, identified a need at Crestwood Elementary School, located less than five minutes from Greenspring. It s hard to believe that in Fairfax County, one of the nation s wealthiest counties, that there are schools and children that need help. But the need is very real, says Paul.

Making an impact

Once the need was identified, Steve and Paul contacted a reading specialist at Crestwood Elementary and received a wish list of books for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Paul worked with national bookseller Scholastic Books, crafting a deal in which they would purchase the books at cost. Scholastic Books also agreed to ship the books for free to Crestwood Elementary. We took two special collections during our weekly Mass to raise money to purchase the books, says Steve. Our Greenspring neighbors were very generous. We raised $2,400, enough to buy more than 600 books for the children.

Sharing their gifts

When the books arrived, Steve and Paul, along with five other members of the Catholic Council, visited Crestwood Elementary to deliver the books in person. Our first stop was a first-grade classroom, says Steve. When we told the children that we were going to read them a story, they all slid their chairs closer to us. They were so sweet and responsive. We learned that many of these children never had a book read to them outside the classroom. We asked the kids who d they d like to have read to them and, quite surprisingly, they chose me, says Paul. We had a few women with us who had been teachers, and I thought for sure they would be chosen. But I learned that most of the kids had never had a man read to them. I guess that s why they wanted to hear from me. After reading out loud to the class, the volunteers gave each child a book to take home and keep. That was difficult for some of the kids to understand, says Paul. I remember one child looking at me with earnest eyes and telling me he d bring the book back tomorrow. It gave me great joy to tell him that he did not need to, that the book was his to keep.

The start of something big

Almost as soon as we returned to Greenspring, we knew we wanted to raise more money and deliver more books to the children at Crestwood, says Steve. Again, a collection was taken to purchase books, and the Greenspring volunteers sent hundreds more books to Crestwood, enough for each child to take a book home in time for the summer vacation. The generosity of the Greenspring community will go a long way in helping the children as they advance their education. According to the Educational Testing Service, the more types of reading materials available in the home, the higher students score in reading proficiency. I know all of us were so uplifted by the children, says Steve. They are a gift to us as much as the books are a gift to them. Plans are under way for another book donation in early 2014. We d like to visit the school again for the National Education Association s Read Across America Day in March, says Paul. I think that as long as there is a need, there will be people here at Greenspring ready to help.