Story by Courtney Scoby, Staff writer
A campus organization is helping community children to build their reading skills, one book at a time.
Last semester, the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi collected 221 new and gently used children’s books to donate to local elementary school students. The Murray Family Resource Youth Service Center will distribute the books through their summer reading program.
“That really passed our expectations,” said Student Vice President Jaime Staengel. “We would have been happy to just get 100.”
The books were collected through drop boxes placed all across campus. Some of the most popular drop-off areas were in Wilson Hall, Faculty Hall and Waterfield Library.
While all donations were appreciated by the group, Phi Kappa Phi members sorted through the donated books to make sure that the children were not getting damaged books.
“Since they were going to kids that wouldn’t normally get books, we wanted to make sure that they were nice quality for the students that were going to receive them,” Staengel said.
Staengel said that while this was the inaugural Phi Kappa Phi book drive, there are plans to make the event an annual one.
“We don’t have a lot of concrete plans yet, but mainly we want to work with other organizations on campus and promote an atmosphere for them to strive to donate the most books,” Staengel said.
The book drive falls in line with one of the honor society’s primary goals: to promote literacy.
“Our chapter is working really hard to promote the love of learning and literacy among students of all ages,” Staengel said.
Members of Phi Kappa Phi are not the only individuals in the community concerned with childhood literacy, however.
Murray Family Resource Youth Service Center, which received the books collected on campus, conducts a once-weekly summer reading program every year in conjunction with the Summer in the Park Program.
“Every student left with a brand new book,” said Morgan Carman, Murray Family Resource Youth Service Center director. “They could come every Tuesday during the summer and by the end of the summer have seven or eight new books.”
Carman emphasized the importance of summer reading practices for children.
“We do it every year to promote reading the two or three months they’re out of school so they don’t forget what they’ve learned,” Carman said.
The summer reading program does not focus solely on success in school, however.
“We try to tie in what reading can help you do, that it can help you get a career,” Carman said.
The program features “guest readers” who read the children a book and then talk a little bit about their own career.
While the program is directed toward students in the Murray city school district, participation is open to all children in the community.
“The program is for any child in the community aged 0-18,” Carman said. “If there is a child in town visiting their grandparents, they can come too.”
Because the program is so open, many books are needed.
“On average, we give away about 150 books a week,” Carman said.
In the meantime, Phi Kappa Phi may be spreading the literary love to other organizations as well.
“This coming year we haven’t decided what our target audience is going to be,” Staengel said. “Whatever group we choose that the books are going to, that determines what books we collect.”