Back in June 2015, Wonderland BookSavers donated 850 books to the Barnum School in Bridgeport, CT.
We spoke with the librarian, Maureen D’Ascanio, and she told us about the kids’ interests. She explained the hardships children at Barnum School face in their daily lives. Many of the children live in dire conditions and do not receive much support from their parents. Reading, she explained, is critical for a child’s success in all subjects at school. A love and understanding of literature and reading must be instilled at a young age to broaden a child’s academic capabilities and success.
Dr. Seuss books are the favorite books of the younger kids at Barnum School. Dr. Seuss books are iconic and widely appreciated, making them less likely to be donated and given away. The books possess alluring creativity and an appealing rhyme scheme, making them very popular to younger readers. On the library shelves, we could see the prized pittance of Dr. Seuss books. Due to the demand and popularity of the Dr. Seuss books, children were not permitted to check those books out of the school library. So, we decided to raise money to purchase Dr. Seuss books for the kids at Barnum School.
Wonderland BookSavers does not need money to operate. The only exceptions would be our annual bake sale at Pequot Library, Lemonade for Literacy, where we make lemonade and bake treats and use our earnings to purchase books for five dollars a box during the last day of the sale. The other exception is for our very recent project of purchasing $1,000 worth of Haitian-Creole books for the children we donate to in Haiti. The money was donated to us by our partner and sponsor, Zoe Barry, founder and CEO of ZappRx. In order to raise money, we decided to have a Dr. Seuss-themed fundraiser. We organized a community event at our local library, Pequot Library. We prepared materials and ideas, and sent out flyers to publicize the event. The library helped us to prepare. We took newspapers, and laid them across the floor. We then placed large refrigerator cardboard boxes on the newspaper. On a table, we set up paper bowls, an assortment of paintbrushes, and tempera paint.
We set a fifteen-dollar admission rate for this event to raise money for Dr. Seuss books. When the children arrived, we ushered them to a blanket we had laid on the floor, and everyone sat down. The children’s librarian, Miss Susan, began story time. Before she began to read, Miss Susan handed out green stars to some people. During the story, when the Sneetches took their stars on and off, everyone would switch stars and take turns having stars and being starless. Everyone listened as she read The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss.
When she had finished reading, we asked the children what they thought the moral of the story was. Their consensus was that it didn’t matter if the Sneetches had stars or not, they were all the same. We discussed how this was actually a larger theme: you should not discriminate against others because of their looks.
After reading and discussing the story, we explained the next portion of the event- building the Sneetch machine. Everyone began to paint the machine.
We took a smaller box, designated it as our tower, and painted it yellow. We painted the tunnel and main chamber of the machine red. With duct tape, we made streamers to cover the entrance of the tunnel. We made green stars, and while you were going through the machine, you could either put a star on, or take a star off. Once the paint had dried, we cut a large hole at one end of largest box. We placed a slide at the exit, and everyone took turns sliding out of the machine.
We left our machine at the library for a few weeks, and eventually dismantled the machine before we brought it to the Barnum School, which is where the machine now resides.
About a month after our event at Pequot Library, we purchased Dr. Seuss books with the money we had made from our fundraiser, and headed to the Barnum school with decorating supplies, a large banner,some Haitian-Creole books to show the children, and the new Dr. Seuss books.
We showed the children their new Dr. Seuss books, and we then proceeded to hold our Sneetch-related activities.
We spent the afternoon with three classes of first-graders as they had their library time. We did the same activities with all three groups. First, we would read The Sneetches and Other Stories, and discuss the morals.
Next, we would read and show the children the Haitian-Creole books. After everyone had a chance to look at the Creole books, the kids got to decorate the Sneetch machine in shifts and write a few words and make drawings on the banner we sending to Haiti. But what they were most excited about by far was getting to go through the Sneetch machine.
The kids lined up, eagerly anticipating their turn to go through the machine. We handed everyone out toy money, like the money the Sneetches paid to go through the machines in the book, and they slipped the money into the admissions box and crawled through the tunnel, walked to the exit, and rode down the slide.
After repeating the activities with each class, we packed up our Creole books and rolled the enormous poster with the names, notes, and drawings of each first-grader scrawled inside. The Sneetch machine and has traveled from our local library to the Barnum School’s library. Our poster brimming with the drawings and messages from Connecticut children will be received by children in Haiti.
The Sneetches and Other Stories has made an impact in our community, at the Barnum school, and will soon make an impact in Haiti. Where will reading take you?