by Jane Arochas
After Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey towns in late October, the Reading Council of Southern New Jersey (RCSNJ) teamed up with Usborne Books and More to assist in rebuilding shore schools throughout the state. Mary Beth Spitz, Educational Consultant for Usborne, contacted RCSNJ with an idea that spiraled into contributions and donations from all over the world to help rebuild and reequip the shore’s schools. The ensuing project, entitled “Restore Our Shore Schools through LITERACY,” has produced over $75,000 to date in free book donations from fundraising events.
Publisher and Children’s Book Author Step In
Former “Jersey girl” and successful children’s author Michelle Nelson-Schmidt felt compelled to give back to the community. Local schools hosted Schmidt for a week of author visit/book signings throughout New Jersey free of charge. Her book entitled Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster has a message for everyone with worries and doubts. Schmidt was the perfect spokesperson to inspire schools throughout the state. Her positive message taught young and old that anyone can “follow their dreams and persevere.”
Author Michelle Nelson-Schmidt speaks to students
The collaboration of RCSNJ and Usborne Books generated book sales which were matched with 100% free books to distribute to area shore towns affected by Hurricane Sandy. A related week of literacy events culminated on February 1, 2013 with a “Community Night” at Rowan University. The session was a gathering of shore school representatives who will be recipients of the Free Books Grant matched 100% by Usborne Books & More. It was an evening to thank local businesses, schools, and volunteers who made this outreach such a huge success.
RCSNJ was instrumental in networking with the local schools and businesses. Our websites, www.rcsnj.webs.com and www.facebook.com/rcsnj enabled communication of events, applications, and donations for distributions to the shore schools. Through the social media of Facebook and other websites, RCSNJ played an integral part in an outpouring of support which occurred from the project. Applications were submitted through RCSNJ and the council anticipates assisting several schools damaged by Sandy.
Numerous organizations contacted RCSNJ to donate books. A retired teacher in North Jersey gathered “1,000 books for Sandy.” An American military school in Germany inquired as to how to send books to shore schools. From Cub Scouts and Lion Cubs in Pennsylvania to schools in Texas and Indiana, there has been an enormous response to help those in need.
Mrs. Spoerl and Alicia Harrison donated 1,000 books
The Task Continues
Our task is not over yet. We now have to distribute the many thousands of books to area shore schools who have applied for assistance. We look forward to assisting libraries and schools with Usborne Books & More. Providing books to the schools affected by Hurricane Sandy will ensure that future minds have the resources they need to better themselves.
Michelle Nelson-Schmidt, Jane Arochas, and Mary Beth Spitz
Jane Arochas is the president of RCSNJ (Reading Council of Southern New Jersey), firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
This article is an addendum to an article from the December 2012/January 2013 issue
of Reading Today. IRA members can read the interactive digital version of the magazine here. Nonmembers: join today!