12:46 p.m., April 8, 2010----The Student Literacy Council (SLC) is a fairly new registered student organization at the University of Delaware. Started only two years ago, this group focuses mainly on promoting reading and literacy within the UD community. Most of the SLC members are students in UD's School of Education.
About 15 miles away in the Little Italy section of Wilmington, young students at the West End Neighborhood House after-school program found themselves staring at empty bookshelves. While the social service organization had some reading books on site, the selection was very limited.
So the SLC partnered with the West End Neighborhood House a few months ago, organizing a book-drive to help fill some of the empty shelves.
The effort and response has become greater than they had ever imagined.
“These books have come from so many different people that the range is perfect for everyone," said Brittany Infante, SLC incoming membership chair who is also a junior in the Elementary Teacher Education program. "We have books on fairytales, we have books on sports, and even educational books.”
The SLC has collected more than 550 books so far from people willing to donate used and new children's books. The word has also spread beyond the UD campus community.
“We went to a leadership conference and they had boxes for us because they knew what we were doing,” said junior Lauren Lucca, incoming president of the SLC. “Friends just say they have an old box from when they were a kid that they don't need anymore and they know this is going to a good cause.”
Once the books were dropped off, eager elementary school students began sifting through boxes and boxes at the West End Neighborhood House, picking out stories to read. But without a borrowing system in place, the children weren't allowed to take the books home.
“It was heart-wrenching to see one of our little students there have a mythology book in his hand that he would not separate from and be unable to take that book home for the night,” explained Marsha Baumeister, assistant professor and faculty adviser for the SLC. “So as soon as we saw his face, we knew we were far from finished.”
As a result, the SLC has now decided to create a library system, a process that will give the children a chance to read the books at home. For seven-year-old Nykiera Anderson, the excitement is almost too much. She says she can't wait to read all of the books.
“I already read five books a day -- now I'm going to read 10!” Anderson said.
The professional organization plans to build additional shelves and is still looking to collect more books.
For the UD students who are a part of the SLC, they say this is a great opportunity to share their love of reading with the children, as well as give them access to hundreds of books, an opportunity they might not have had without this effort.
“It makes us really happy to be able to give them these books and to see how happy they are to receive them,” commented Lucca. “Because just one book can change a kid's life.”
The SLC is affiliated with the Diamond State Reading Association and the International Reading Association. Book donations can be dropped off at the Education Resource Center in UD's Willard Hall Education Building. They should be marked for the Student Literacy Council.
Article, photos and video by Cassandra Kramer