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Gift of Literacy brings joy, books to every first-grade student in Springfield
Hundreds of first-grade students on Thursday flocked to Lane Community College for the 14th annual Gift of Literacy event, where each of the nearly 800 children received a book of their choosing.
From the moment they stepped off the school buses, the students were overjoyed to spend “a day at college” with their first-grade peers and teachers from across the district. Students were greeted by people dressed in costume as famous book characters such as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Mouse from “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” and Pig from “If You Give a Pig A Pancake.”
As they filed into a small auditorium at the community college, the students were eager to find out what their field trip was all about. Representatives from the Springfield Public Library and students from Springfield High School acted out a short, interactive play before the students were each given drawstring backpacks with a book inside.
Students were asked to wait until they were given the OK to open the bags and find out what’s inside. On the count of three, every student opened the bags and squeals of glee filled the air.
“I love this book!” Some students shouted. Others immediately began reading.
Students were able to choose their favorite book from a list of 10 books chosen by the book selection committee. The team strives to select at least one bilingual book, an award-winning book, and a non-fiction and a rhyming book, among others.
This year’s most popular book – the book that was most widely chosen by students – was “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors.” Some of the other books that made the list included “Nannette’s Baguette,” “El Chupacabras,” “The Seal Garden,” “If the S in Moose Comes Loose” and more.
After the big reveal, students broke into smaller groups, based on the book they chose, where Springfield district staff and other volunteers read to them. Then they had lunch and headed back to school.
But long before the books were handed out, volunteers from TEAM Springfield and two local rotary clubs – the Springfield Rotary and the Twin Rivers Rotary – gathered to talk about why they participate in the program, and why it’s important.
TEAM Springfield is a unique collaboration of the city’s four public agencies – the City of Springfield, Willamalane Parks and Recreation District, the Springfield Utility Board and Springfield Public Schools. The agencies share ideas, energy and resources to deliver projects that benefit the community.
Ed Baker, the Gift of Literacy chairperson said Thursday that he’s been a part of the event and program since it started in 2006. The rotary clubs are responsible for the majority of the fundraising for Gift of Literacy, according to Baker, who said the two clubs raise between $20,000 and $22,000 for the event each year.
“Watching hundreds of kids come into the forum and get their books is just like Christmas,” Baker said. “And volunteers come back year after year to help with the event. It’s truly great.”
Nancy Bigley, a member of the Springfield Rotary Club, has also been a part of the Gift of Literacy program for the duration of its existence. Bigley said Thursday that the event is something she looks forward to.
“It’s my favorite day of the year!” she said.
Bigley, with the help of Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Bruce Smolnisky and Springfield Library representatives, thanked all of the volunteers and sponsors who played a roll in making the event happen, including the Springfield Education Foundation, the Rotary Clubs of Springfield, SELCO Community Credit Union, The Cressey Family Charitable Trust, Lane Community College, TEAM Springfield and State Farm.
Thank you volunteers and sponsors! We couldn’t have done it without you.