by Emily Ball Cicchini
Thursday February 25th was my one year anniversary at BookSpring. I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to have been given the honor of carrying forward this worthy vision of creating a more literate future for all our children. Every day of this year, BookSpring has been delivering books to children throughout Austin, and inspiring adults to read aloud to children. I can’t think of more valuable work to be doing to help improve our community.
The day itself couldn’t have been more perfect, a mini-version of the long-range promise of what we can achieve together. In the morning, we had an amazing training with AISD on the Read for Success program from RIF national. Laura Walters, who helped develop the Read for Success book collections and activites showed how easy it is to make connections between good children’s books and fundamental concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math. The second grade teachers from Blanton and Perez came up with all kinds of creative ideas to extend the concepts through arts and science activities, even before seeing the wealth of curricular resources being offered to us all from RIF.
After lunch at the wonderful Green Mesquite to show Laura what real Texas BBQ is about, we enjoyed a rigorous evaluation planning session about a pilot for ROR-based ReadWell with both PHDs and MDs. My passion for evaluation was satisfied by continuing to advance the scales for love of reading and intrinsic/extrinsic motivation to read, so that we can statistically show that our programs in Austin make a measurable impact. We’re still in early stages, but by this time next year, we should have very interesting results from several of our ongoing and pilot programs to share.
This was was topped off with 1200 beautiful gently used books donated by a group of philanthropic 4th graders from Lake Travis ISD named the Polympians (short for Panda Olympians, of course), who had found us on the web. Knocking on doors to collect books to donate to those less fortunate through our ReBook program, these young boys are truly an inspiration to us all.
Finally, I stopped by for a quick happy hour at Mission Capital. It has been such a joy to get reconnected with Austin’s non-profit sector over the past year. Groups like Mission Capital and One Voice Central Texas are doing a fabulous job of defining the non-profit sector’s needs and opportunities, and helping us think more towards collective impact. There are so many critical challenges facing our community right now: from income inequality; to racial tension and intolerance; to equitable access to jobs, homes, healthcare, and education for everyone. No one group or method or solution will solve the problems that are before us. We all have a role to play in helping Austin and Central Texas live up to its reputation of being a truly amazing place to live.
I remain humbled by this opportunity to serve the children of Austin and inspire a lifelong love of reading. I firmly believe that a personal motivation to read and access to books really are the “keys to the kingdom” of success.