The Family Center just completed our first book collection, for the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society. Marji Molavi, parent of Gray in the Blue Room, came to me with this idea and we met with Jim Matison, the Executive Director to discuss the project. Their programs serve more than 300 children, ages 2 to 5, and their families in five centers in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Brownsville.
This felt like a wonderful, appropriate opportunity for our students to experience giving something they do not use anymore to someone else who can now enjoy the books. When I look at our library and the classroom book shelves and think about how important books are to children’s development and learning, I am happy that we can now be part of giving children and families many wonderful stories to read and share.
The boxes (decorated by each class) were located outside my office, so every morning as I sat at my desk I watched the children add their “donations” to the boxes. It is so clear to me that they worked with their parents to pick these books that they were finished reading. They knew that we would be sharing the books with other children who will now have a turn to read them.
Some special moments and observations during the book drive include:
“I have two of these.”
A child kisses the book before putting it in the box.
Each book is held, looked at thoughtfully for a moment and then carefully placed in a box.
Books are randomly tossed into the boxes.
Books are distributed slowly and carefully into all three boxes.
Books are opened and “read” a bit one last time.
“Can I keep this one?” to his father, but it goes in the box.
One girl enters carefully carrying a stack of about 8 small board books. She is balancing them and trying to get all the way to the boxes with them, but as one slides off the top and as she tries to catch it they all fall. After a moment of trying to pick them all up, she has a new plan. One by one, she carries each individually to the boxes and puts them in. Dad patiently watches and lets her work it out – beautiful!
As children put books in, they are noticing the books already there with interest. Amazing that they don’t try to take them out.
It is so clear to me that our students do understand that they are sharing these books with other children somewhere. I am very proud of them – they are not so big that the books they are donating are too easy for them. Maybe they are duplicates, maybe their bookshelves at home are overflowing, maybe they have been read so many times it is okay to pass them along… whatever the reason they are giving them away to an abstract “other child.”
This is the beautiful essence of Service in the Family Center – where the foundation starts being built. In years to come they will learn why there are children who do not have books in their homes. For now they are learning that they have the ability to give, to recognize that they are able to fulfill another person’s needs. In the classroom it is passing along a toy or book to a friend who is waiting for it, bringing a tissue to a friend who is upset to help them feel better. Our collections for Room to Grow and now this one for the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society are giving them an opportunity to make an appropriate Service step outside the classroom.
The boxes are very full and what is equally important is seeing how this experience works for our children.
Family Center Director