The Lake Hills Book Giveaway Program is the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club’s (BBRC) primary literacy project. We give books to kids to take home and read during winter, spring and summer breaks – books they can keep forever!
We focus on Lake Hills Elementary students because many of them don’t have access to books at home. At Lake Hills Elementary, 56% of the students are on free/reduced lunch and English is not their first language. Their parents often struggle to make ends meet.
In addition, the students are fortunate to have Vicki Capestany and Justine Szymala, Literacy Facilitators at Lake Hills, advocating for their interests in the community at large.
Vicki and Justine made a compelling case to BBRC about how children experience a significant decline in reading skills during school breaks, especially over the summer. Research has shown that children who have access to books over the summer perform 35-40% better on reading achievement tests than those without access to books. Children from low-income families are disproportionately affected in ways that can impact them years into their education.
The books the BBRC’s gift helps to purchase are not just any old books – they are books featuring characters who look like the students reading them and reflect the students’ culture. This is important because kids need to see people who look like them who have faced challenges, overcome obstacles, and made a difference in the world.
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, children’s literature scholar and recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, says:
“Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.”
The week before winter break in February, seven BBRC members had the opportunity to visit with the students at Lake Hills and help them shop for their books. Since there were a large selection in English and Spanish, it wasn’t easy choosing just five. Club members Margie Burnett and Vince McDonough had some fun on their shopping excursion.
Although we were looking forward to returning to Lake Hills during the last week of school to help the students choose 10 books to take home for the summer, COVID-19 foiled our plans. But all wasn’t lost as Vicki and Justine came to our rescue and put together 120 packages of 10 books, which families picked up at the Lake Hills Family Connection Center.
Vicki and Justine were excited to tell us that our gift enabled them to purchase enough books for five students in every classroom – the most ever!
The journey of a lifetime begins with the turning of a page. With our gift, we will help put Bellevue’s most vulnerable children on a journey to lifelong achievement.