770 Pounds of Dreams for His Students

It started with one spelling word. “Beach.”

Malik Ray, a first-time second grade teacher in Atlanta, GA, taught his students their new spelling words by projecting a photo and having students guess the word before putting it in their notebooks.

On this day, Malik displayed a photo of the sand, a palm tree, a little beach ball and the ocean. The classroom went silent. Not one student guessed the word.

FirstBook at Mary Bethune Elementary School, Atlanta, Georgia

They couldn’t recognize the sand; they didn’t know the water was the ocean. They had never seen a tree with what they called “arms.” They did recognize the ball.

This was when Malik realized that his students had never seen a beach. They had never been outside of the Vine City neighborhood where they resided. His students didn’t have what Malik calls “vision” – the ability to see past where they are now and imagine a different life.

But when 770 pounds of books from First Book arrived at their school, that changed.

Malik classroom photo“When the books arrived, I thought, ‘Here are 770 pounds of experience for your children. They are going to dream 770 pounds of dreams,’” says Malik.

Now when they read about faraway places and unfamiliar characters, they ask questions like “How is her hair that way?” “Why do their parents do that when mine do this?”

Students that were reading at a pre-k level when they entered his classroom are now reading chapter books. Their reading assessment scores have improved. They are ready to enter third grade.

And they’ve started to dream.

“We’ve starting to talk about their future in a whole new way,” explains Malik. “Rather than saying ‘I want to be a beautician like my aunt,’ we talk about owning a beauty salon. I want them to be able to dream. These books have given my kids hope.”

Malik Ray’s classroom was able to receive books through First Book’s partnership with Wipro Ltd., a global information technology, consulting and business process services company. If you work with children in need, you can access books and resources for your classroom through the First Book Marketplace.