At McBee Elementary School in Austin, TX teachers are always looking for ways to help students share ideas and connect. That is especially true for librarian Heather Stephens. She sees hundreds of students from different grade levels, all with various interests, on a daily basis.
For the 2nd grade, it was the book series Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee that students used to connect and create a common language.
Thanks to a generous donation from Conn’s HomePlus, each and every student in the 2nd grade received a personal copy of just one book in the series. That was all it took for them to fall in love.
“It’s become this big 2nd-grade thing,” says Heather, “I am doing the same thing with all classes. Everyone is in on it, they talk amongst themselves about the books.”
Getting kids excited about reading can be challenging, especially if their access to high-quality books is limited. As a librarian, Heather knows that a single library copy of a book only goes so far when it needs to be shared among an entire grade.
“I’ve never had an experience like this where you know for sure that everyone has at least one of the books and has access to it,” says Heather, “it kind of leveled the playing field.”
The 2nd graders at McBee are so smitten with these delightful books that even their parents and guardians have taken notice. A relatively new series, Bink and Gollie might not be as well-known to adults, but Heather thinks that is why they have been so interested.
“I think families have had to ask, ‘what are you talking about? What is this book? Tell me more.’”
Family engagement is something that Heather and McBee have had great success with. The Bink and Gollie series has helped increase the interactions between home life and school life for many students. One mom is baking Bink and Gollie cookies for each student in the 2nd grade. Students have told Heather they’re getting other Bink and Gollie books for Christmas. A Bink and Gollie themed pancake party happened in the library on December 19; parents made pancakes for the entire grade level and community volunteers created decorations.
When First Book and Conn’s HomePlus provided the Bink and Gollie books, Heather didn’t expect for her students to become so hooked so quickly.
“I wish I could say that it had, but it did not start with the idea that it would turn into such a big thing,” she says.
That is the power of books and stories. They can unite people from diverse backgrounds, engage parents and community members, and more. When students have access to educational resources it helps them dream big and explore endless possibilities.
There is no better example of that than the 2nd graders at McBee Elementary, who took one book and turned it into a common language, a school event, and even cookies.
“It’s just taken a life of its own,” says Heather.
If you serve kids in need, please visit the First Book Marketplace to explore our variety of educational resources. Special thanks to Conn’s HomePlus who donated the Bink & Gollie books as part of a 1,000 book donation in addition to a donation of furniture.
Click here to donate to First Book to help make stories like Heather’s possible for educators across the country.