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Read for Relief
Students across the country use books to help hurricane victims
By Rachel Laskow

Students read during their school's read-a-thon.
Students read during their school's read-a-thon.
(Photo: Norita Sanderson)
When 10-year-old Ashlie Rich saw the victims of Hurricane Katrina on the news, she decided to help them out. Instead of donating money or clothes, Ashlie collected something else—books.

"I just really wanted to help those people. I mean, they really lost everything. I love to read, so I thought if it takes my mind off of the little things I have going on from time to time, it may help them forget, too," she said.

So, Ashlie started a book drive at her California school's Scholastic Book Fair. She asked people to donate books they bought at the fair or like-new books from home. And it was a huge success! She collected boxes full of books, which will be donated to the young victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"Some kids even put pencils, erasers, and bookmarks in the box that they bought with leftover lunch money," Ashlie said.

Mariah Brings reads a book during her school's read-a-thon.
Mariah Brings reads a book during her school's read-a-thon.
(Photo: Norita Sanderson)
A Read-a-thon for Katrina Relief

At a school in Minnesota, 700 students in first through fifth grade participated in a school-wide read-a-thon. Students read during the last hour of school on September 9, and pledges brought in more than $10,000. The money will go toward the rebuilding of an adopted school in Biloxi, Mississippi, an area hit by Hurricane Katrina.

"The read-a-thon made me feel good to know that the money we raised is going to some people in need," 10-year-old Mariah Brings said.

The school hopes to hold other events to help the hurricane victims, and would like to open a writing relationship with classes at their adopted school.

"Even though we are about 1,000 miles away, we had the support from our teachers to make the event work," fifth-grade teacher Norita Sanderson said.

Lily Lu and her teacher Vivian Del Valle stand in front of their
Lily Lu and her teacher Vivian Del Valle stand in front of their "Read for Need" reading thermometer.
(Photo: Vivian Del Valle)
Read for Need

A New York school started "Read for Need—The Hurricane Katrina Book Challenge." Each fifth-grade class set its own reading goal. Vivian Del Valle's class is aiming to read 100 books by December 30, 2005. She is marking her students' success with a reading thermometer. At the end of September, her class had already read 22 books, which equals 22° F on the thermometer.

A donation of 100 books will be made in the students' names to children who lost all of their books in the disaster.

"Books and school are large parts of a student's life. The sooner they return to the routine of living and being a student, the quicker and the greater the healing," Del Valle said.

Besides improving reading skills and helping the victims of the hurricane, Del Valle also hopes that the challenge will teach her students to be aware of the world around them. She believes the activity gives her students a sense of pride and teaches them to work as a team toward a common cause.

"I think ["Read for Need"] is very important because I don't want any children to be unhappy. I want them to have everything they need," fifth-grader Lily Lu said.