First Book Rhodes Works to Combat Illiteracy
Publication Date: 10/12/2010
Last year, the First Book chapter at Rhodes celebrated its fifth year by donating 1,000 books to children in the Memphis community. First Book is a national organization with various advisory boards all over the country, such as the one at Rhodes. The boards work with local literacy programs to distribute new books to children who, for economic reasons, have little or no access to books.
“I think that the cool thing about First Book is that it gets to one of the root causes of illiteracy, which is access to books,” First Book Rhodes co-chair Sydney Shearer ’11 says. “It is a really important issue, and we get to learn about literacy nationwide as well as here in Memphis.”
Each year, the Rhodes chapter sponsors different events on and off campus to raise money to purchase books. An elementary school is one of three organizations with which First Book Rhodes partnered last year. Last year, it also cosponsored a trivia night with the First Book Mid-South Advisory Board, raising more than $1,000 dollars. In addition, the group has held fundraisers at Blue Coast Burrito and holds annual doughnut sales during finals and midterms in the Middle Ground on campus.
First Book Rhodes will host its second annual Awareness Week Nov. 8-13. During the week, the group will place a cardboard tree outside the library, where students can add book leaves to it by donating money. On Friday and Saturday of that week, the group will host an on-campus used book sale. Also in the works is a talk by a children’s author on the importance of literacy.
“One of our big goals this year is to focus on Awareness Week,” co-chair Jerica Sandifer ’12 says. “We [want to] move from just being a fundraising organization to being an advocacy organization too. We are getting at the root cause of illiteracy.”
First Book Rhodes has already exceeded its $1,000 annual goal but will continue to raise money. In the spring, the group will host a book party at a local community center where children can play games and receive books. Also in the spring, organizations and literacy groups on campus can apply for grants through First Book Rhodes. Awards are based on need.
“I want us to go and see our impact inside the classroom and see how the kids are actually using the books,” adds Shearer.
When I joined in 2007, no one really knew what First Book was,” she says. “Now, we’ve really raised awareness and people recognize the name. Our next step is for people to recognize what we do and why we do it. We want people to understand why it is important that kids have books and how few books there really are in some low income neighborhoods.”
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(information compiled by Rhodes Student Associate Lucy Kellison ′13)