This year Merrimac Elementary School’s Pick A Reading Partner (P.A.R.P.) program ran through the month of February. This program includes all grade levels and the requirements are that each student reads 15-30 minutes a day or more throughout the entire month. Students may read on their own, or be read to by a parent or guardian, a friend, a sibling, or another adult in order to qualify for the program. Their schoolwide goal was to read 160,000 minutes throughout the month, their highest goal ever.
This year, two students from Mrs. Meade’s fifth grade class, Alexis Salcedo and Mattea Greco, and two students from Mrs. Alvarez’s fifth grade class, Autumn Danziger and James McGinness, created a service learning project entitled Read A Book To Give A Book to tie into P.A.R.P.
This project enabled P.A.R.P. participants to connect our schoolwide goal while being empowered to help others in need. Their idea was simple: they wanted to collect unwanted, gently used books and donate them to a non-profit organization called The Book Fairies.
The group came up with the idea Read A Book To Give A Book for this service learning project because the students felt strongly that ALL children should have the privilege of reading good books, yet they recognized that not all children have access to them. They decided to hold this book drive so they could help get books into the hands of all children across Long Island and throughout areas of metropolitan New York.
The students presented their idea through a PowerPoint presentation during two schoolwide assemblies. They informed the student body about what their goals were and what the school could do to help. In an effort to include as many students as possible the following plan was developed: students in grades K-2 who read at least 240 minutes earned a blank bookmark template that they could decorate for the recipients of the donated books. Students in grades 3-5, who read 150 minutes per week each earned one raffle ticket each week for a chance to help organize, sort the books by genre, and package them in copy boxes for The Book Fairies.
At the completion of P.A.R.P. 24 students’ names were chosen through the raffle and they filled 53 copy paper boxes with donated books ranging from board books to elementary titles, young adult chapter books, and even books for adults and teaching professionals. Each box was carefully labeled by genre and sealed shut to be picked up the following week by volunteers working with The Book Fairies.
“This year’s PARP project, Read A Book To Give A Book was impressive!" said Merrimac principal, Veronica DeCicco. "Our students created a meaningful service learning project which offered an opportunity for all of our students and staff to help others. As a school community, we shared our love of books and reading with those in need. We received hundreds of books for all ages and enjoyed boxing them up. The planning, tracking, and goal setting matched our school’s leadership process. These students utilized all 7 Habits of Dr. Covey to cultivate the idea. I was proud to see how the student body and staff embraced it. It was a true success for Merrimac.”
Not only were the Merrimac students successful in reaching the schoolwide goal of helping to get books into the hands of all children, but they also worked diligently to reach the schoolwide reading goal of 160,000 minutes.
“We had the highest number of students participate in P.A.R.P. this year than we’ve ever had in the past," said P.A.R.P. committee chairperson and school librarian, Lisa Martinez. "Students really were inspired and worked hard to read a ton so that they could earn a raffle ticket for a chance to participate in packaging the donated books. Not only did we collect an incredible amount of donated books but the amount of minutes the students read was quite extraordinary!”
Added Martinez, "We were thoroughly impressed not only with the amount of reading that was done this month, but by the willingness and excitement of all of the students to participate and help children not only in our immediate community, but all across Long Island and New York City."