When two teachers at Stevens Elementary School in East Spokane found that their virtual learning students didn’t have any books at home, they decided to do something about it and deliver books to the students’ homes.
Derek Mullin and his teaching partner Laurel Littleworth teach third grade. Under normal classroom circumstances, teachers may help one student while the rest of the class reads individually.
“Virtual learning is very different and one of the things we quickly discovered was that there were no books at home,” Mullin said. “So, when we asked our students to read, they had no books to read.”
Many of the families at Stevens Elementary School face obstacles to learning under the best of circumstances. During COVID more challenges popped up.
“Maybe a family doesn’t have a vehicle so they can’t come to school and get the supplies they need,” Mullin said. “Some families are very concerned about COVID and won’t allow children to leave the house.”
Initially, Mullin and Littleworth loaded up a foldable wagon with supplies and donated books and told the students they’d be in a certain park or near a certain intersection. Then they started walking.
“We are giving the books out so in that sense it’s not a library,” Mullin said.
Mullin has friends in Spokane’s Rotary 21 and they encouraged him to apply for a Youth Services grant to buy new books. He said the school has about 540 students and initially he was hoping for $500 to buy a book for each student.
“Rotary ended up giving us $2100 – I was surprised and humbled,” Mullin said.
Joe Bruce, who serves on Rotary 21’s Youth Services Committee, said Rotary 21 is trying to establish a permanent relationship with Stevens Elementary School, that’s not just about funding.
“We chose Stevens because it is a school in one of the lowest income areas of the state,” Bruce said.
Last year, Rotary 21’s Youth Services Committee’s gave out $49,778 in grants.
“We still have $43,000 available for the remaining six months of this program year,” Bruce said.
Littleworth and Mullin quickly went on a shopping spree with Scholastic which has a program that awards them with free books, the more they purchase.
“The grant means we can continue to do this for the year out, with new books,” Mullin said. “If the students can’t get to us, we will get the books to them.”
If you want to help, you can donate lightly used books suitable for the youngest readers at Stevens Elementary School, 1717 East Sinto Ave.