If you listen hard enough, you might hear the sound of pages turning. Just down the road from Eastern Mennonite University, Waterman Elementary School is immersed in a reading challenge this month.
And they’re doing so with the support, encouragement and 300-plus new resources donated by EMU students: each donated book will be a prize for an eager young reader when the 100,000-page goal is met.
Brandon Higgins, a senior psychology major interning with EMU’s Residence Life this year, led the project. He and his internship supervisor, Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life Lindy Magness used the results of a campus climate survey to guide the project, with the goal of forging a stronger link between the university’s residential students and the Harrisonburg community, Higgins said.
Higgins invited the Nursing Student Association and Black Student Alliance to join.
“Carlyn Gingerich from NSA and Jakiran Richardson and Rebecca Yugga with BSA were really helpful organizers,” Higgins said.
His mother and her co-workers at Pierce Elementary School in Fauquier County also contributed.
Many of the books donated by the students were specially selected for cultural and linguistic representation, Magness said. She remembered seeing books on environmental stewardship, famous black women in history, and Spanish-language texts, along with lots of classics, such as “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.”
Before Higgins delivered the books, students living on the second floor of Elmwood spent some time inscribing notes to the students.
Waterman reading specialist Laura Thomas and librarian Diane Driver helped the project develop, giving support and ideas, Higgins said.
“I really appreciated Brandon’s initiative in bringing this to us,” said Thomas, who chairs Waterman’s literacy committee and connected the project to the April reading challenge. “I welcome anything that encourages reading by our students and also welcome any community support of our school!”
Driver noted that getting kids to fall in love with reading has many benefits, including language skill and vocabulary development, exploration of different perspectives, and engaging critical thinking skills.
“The more books we can put into their hands, the greater the chance that they will become life-long readers and learners, she said. “Many of our students rely on the school library and the public library for books to read beyond their classroom, so any opportunity that allows us to get more books in children’s hands is appreciated.”
Books, Driver added, “expand minds and offer experiences our students may not have imagined.”
Higgins can relate to this: he remembers that he and his brother listened to their mom read aloud every night. “I was always interested in the shenanigans that Harry and Co. got up to.”
Harry Potter, of course!