children’s book clubs

Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe

This summer we packed up 15,000 books for shipment to Africa.

It took our whole team days to prepare the books, and several hours to load the truck.

Even our new puppy, Legend hopped up to help us!

On loading day, our friend and partner, Mark from US-Africa Children’s Fellowship, met us in our garage.

We had to weigh every box and fill out the Bill of Lading.

Finally we were done! But for Mark, the adventure was just beginning!

Mark traveled to Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, unloading boxes of books in every country!

All our boxes of books finding new homes on a new continent, and so many happy faces! Mark is our hero too!

 

Meeting with Susan Whitcomb to Discuss the Hurricane and Haiti

Last Friday, we met with our long-time community partner, Susy Whitcomb, the Founder and President of Haitian Educational Initiatives. Haitian Educational Initiatives was established as a response to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. Hurricane Matthew has razed Haiti, and we have been supporting Haitian Educational Initiative’s recovery efforts following the natural disaster.

Headlines about Haiti and Hurricane Matthew from BBC, Reuters, and The Weather Channel

During the 2015-2016 school year, we undertook the task of donating $1,099 worth of Haitian-Creole books to Haiti. Haitian-Creole has only been a written language since 1979, making Haitian-Creole books incredibly rare. First, we held a community event at the Barnum School in Bridgeport to raise awareness. Then, we partnered with the corporate healthcare business ZappRx. We met with the ZappRx PR team in Boston when we donated 2,000 books with ZappRx stickers to the Reach Out and Read program at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children. In exchange, Zoe Barry, the Founder and CEO of ZappRx donated us funds she won from the contest ONEin3, which is sponsored by the mayor of Boston. One of the initial reasons we decided to transform into a 501(c)3 was so that we could accept these funds and purchase Haitian-Creole books.

Children reading our donated Haitian-Creole books

We sat with Susy to discuss the conditions of the children, their families, their homes, and their schools. Haitian Educational Initiative’s schools in Jacmel and Cayes-Jacmel both sustained damage, and the school in rural Cayes-Jacmel was afflicted with severe flooding. Fortunately, our books were not harmed; proper precautions were exercised to ensure that our books and other school supplies were not damaged by the hurricane. For the most part, the children and their families were safe, but 80% of their crops and livestock were swept away.

Susy affirmed that since the children are equipped with education, during these dire times, the children are actually more apt and able to recover. Unlike their parents, the children can read, and have a breadth of academic knowledge. At school, the children have also learned crafting skills to create goods to sell at the market. These goods range from clothes, to sunglasses made from plastic bottles, to bracelets and jewelry, to pottery, and many other items.

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A Haitian bowl made from a special paper mâché technique

Susy showed us pictures of the school in Cayes-Jacmel. In the pictures, rapids of muddy brown water race over the concrete platform of the school. The school in Cayes-Jacmel is open air, and consists of a concrete foundation with posts from which a tarp is draped over to provide shade, or protection from rain. Susy explained that now the school is being excavated from the thick layers of mud and debris.

 

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Flooding in Haiti. Photo credit: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images

While most of the children and families Haitian Educational Initiatives serves were unharmed, a fourteen-year-old boy was injured during the hurricane. Susy explained how the boy, who attends the school in Cayes-Jacmel, was crushed by a tree, breaking both of his legs. He is receiving medical attention, but the medicine in Haiti is not very advanced, and this injury could have severe, lasting effects. We have asked Susy to put us in contact with the boy and his family, and we hope to assist him in any possible way. We are hoping to deliver him some books and other school supplies so he can continue studying while he recovers.

After meeting with Susy, we presented her with a check written by Reid to support the relief Haitian Educational Initiatives is providing. If you wish, you may donate to Haitian Educational Initiatives to provide food, clean water, and the basic living necessities here.

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Presenting Susy with relief funds

Additionally, at the end of our meeting, Susy presented us with gifts from the children in Haiti. When we donated the children in Haiti books and school supplies, we also sent poster pals, which are banners with notes of love, drawings, and pictures from us and school children in our area. In return, we received paper mâché figurines and pottery.

 

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We are very grateful for our wonderful friends in Haiti and we will continue to assist them and Haitian Educational Initiatives in every way possible.

ZappRx Partnership Brings Books to New Horizons in Africa

Our community partner, Zoe Barry, Founder and CEO of ZappRx,, recently traveled to Uganda and Rwanda.

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Kampala, a large city in Uganda

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Roadside market, Rwanda

Zoe traveled light, with only 33 pounds of allowable packed luggage, she made the most of it, img_7565

packing paperback stories, coloring books and crayons

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for distribution to children throughout her trip.

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Note: Cautionary tales promoting chastity are posted on the closed shutters when this “dialy” school is done for the day.

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Young girl in foreground is balancing a machete on her head. Obviously more coordinated than most US toddlers!

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Armed guards accompanied Zoe and her companion as they delivered books.

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Everyone loves to see themselves!

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Zoe, delivering books to members of the Batwa Pygmy Tribe.

Ahh…Africa…

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Wonderland BookSavers’ 2016 Quote of the Year

Written by Madeline

In August of 2012, Claire, Emma and Brooks Morgan and I read A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. The four of us had just recently formed into a book club, and this was the first book we read as a club. We decided to complete a project after each book we read, and we designated a quote-banner as our project for A Single Shard.

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Left to right: Claire, Emma, Madeline, and Brooks Morgan work on their “A Single Shard” banners

We chose to emblazon our banners with an inspiring quote from A Single Shard which goes as follows. “Your mind knows that you are going to Songdo. But you must not tell your body. It must think, one hill, one valley, one day at a time. In that way, your spirit will not grow weary before you have even begun to walk.”

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It has become our annual tradition to choose an inspiring quote. Our quotes are always from a book our club has read or from an inspirational person we have read about together. Last Friday, we completed our fifth annual quote banner.

This year, we chose a quote from Phillipians 4:13 which reads “For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.”

We chose this quote since our faith has been instrumental in our charity, both in a sense that it has inspired many of our projects, and because many of our community partners are churches.

After taping the banner down on table so it would not slide as we worked, we began to transcribe the quote onto our banners in pencil, and trace the pencil in marker.

We chose to make the first letter of the quote an illuminated letter, since we learned how to make illuminated letters and manuscripts in preparation for teaching a medieval camp at the beginning of summer.illuminated%22f%22Our banners were enhanced with decorations such as a bookshelf with titles of books we have read together.booksonbanner.jpgOur team and our charity has grown significantly since we made our first quote banner. Each year we have continued this custom, and each year our banners inspire us to new heights. Only a few months after we began our book club in 2012, we had transformed into Wonderland BookSavers, and a few years after founding Wonderland BookSavers, we have transformed into a 501(c)(3), Wonderland BookSavers, Inc.

We look forward to another year of reading and donating books one hill, one valley, and one day at a time!4doingquote

Aid for Ecuador

by Brooks Morgan

In the summer of 2013, Wonderland BookSavers read A Long Walk for Water, by Linda Sue Park.

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This amazing book is a fictionalized account of the real-life story of a young boy, Salva, who is caught in the cross fire of the civil war in the Sudan. His happy childhood becomes a nightmare. As he matures to adolescence, Salva comes to realize that the search for clean water is a major cause of so much violence and unhappiness in his homeland.   As an adult, Salva traveled back to the Sudan, bringing the gift of clean water to his friends and enemies alike, thereby hoping to also bring the gift of peace to the warring villages.

 

The Wonderland BookSavers, being inspired by literature, recognized immediately the importance of clean water, not just in the Sudan, but also across many countries in the developing world. We decided to have a lemonade-stand style stand to raise funds and awareness. At the opening of a local public park, we hosted a Water 4 Water stand. We sold bottles of water for $2.00, and raised $150.00.

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We used this money to purchase 3 simple water purifiers. We gave these to a teenage friend who was traveling to Ecuador. Each water purifier was placed in a separate village, allowing for clean water for 3 villages!

 

This past April another teenage friend was traveling to Ecuador for a mission trip to Monte Sinai, located in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He asked for donations of T-shirts to share with the children in the Rostro de Cristo orphanage. As soon as we heard this request, we knew the Wonderland BookSavers could again step up to help children in Ecuador.

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Within a few days we were able to gather over 100 T-shirts. Reid and I washed and folded all the shirts. We were very happy to think of other children enjoying all our cheerful shirts!

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Unfortunately, just as our friend was visiting Ecuador, an enormous earthquake occurred! Our friend was safe, but sadly, many others were injured. Currently the Ecuadorian government is trying to encourage travelers to reconsider Ecuador as a viable vacation destination. The earthquake not only cost many people their lives but has also done great economic damage to the country.

Our prayers are with the beautiful people of Ecuador.

My Maine Summer Reading: The Sign of the Beaver, report by Reid

The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare, is one of many books that I read this summer. The first 3 chapters were not the greatest, but after that I could not stop reading. It took me one day to read this 130 page book and 1 hour to write this, I wrote everything myself without any help!

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The main character, Matt, was left alone, by his father, to guard the new log house they had built in the woods. Matt’s father had to bring back his sister and his mother and Matt had to stay and guard the log house because that was their only place to live. Matt is left with his father’s gun to use for protection and hunting. But a stranger came and Matt was nice and let him stay in the cabin, the stranger’s name was Ben. When Matt woke up Ben had stolen Matt’s gun. The loss of his gun meant that Matt had to begin figuring out how to take care of himself in the wilderness.

 

Hunger finally drives Matt to raid a bee’s nest in the hope of finding honey. Matt stuck his hand into the beehive and the bees swarmed. Matt ran and dove into a lake, trying to save himself. He got many stings, fainted and woke up to find two unusual people standing in front of him. He got a better look, and discovered they were Indians!

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Matt learns that the familiar looking stranger, Ben, could not be trusted, but the unfamiliar and frightening Indians save his life. Matt trusted the Indians and wanted them to help him. One of the Indians is a boy of the same age as Matt, Attean. Attean’s grandfather arranges for Attean to help Matt in exchange for teaching Attean to read. However, Attean is very disdainful of Matt, because Attean was forced to go to the reading lessons by his grandfather. Every day he had to bring Matt meat, or some honey or just something to help Matt survive. Attean also didn’t like Matt because Attean thought that white men were dumb and also were taking the Indian’s land. Matt wanted Attean to be friends with him, after a little while Matt’s wish came true!

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One day Matt and Attean are almost attacked by a bear. Together they manage to save themselves and kill the bear. Matt is surprised to see that Attean says a prayer to the soul of every animal that they hunt and kill for food, including the bear. Attean explains that he wants to tell God that he meant no harm, and the bear could have killed them, so they killed the bear.

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Matt longed to be able to do something that would help Attean. One day he got the chance. Attean has a beloved but mangy dog that can’t hunt or do anything but follow Attean around. Another tribe in the woods used metal traps to catch animals. Attean’s dog became trapped in one and Matt tried to save it. Matt tried to open the trap, but the dog didn’t really know Matt so it growled. Matt left and got Attean’s sister because Attean was hunting. Attean’s sister put a blanket over the dog and distracted the dog while Matt opened the trap. After that the dog loved Matt and Matt wondered if the dog actually had memory of Matt saving him. Through their experiences with one another, Matt and Attean became like brothers, even Attean’s grandmother and tribe began to accept Matt.

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I liked this book because it was about surviving in the wild and instead of just surviving in the wild Matt also made friends with the Indians. I really liked the end because I thought Matt’s father and his family would never come back but they did! Sadly the new baby died on the way, it only lived 5 days.

 

I learned many things from this book. If I get lost in the woods without anything but my clothes I would remember the things Attean taught Matt. For example, I could try to make a shelter, I could try to make a knife and hunt for food or I can find a pointy stick, go to a pond, and then try to catch a fish. I also learned to respect nature and the souls of animals. Attean believed that the animals could understand him when he spoke to them. Most importantly, I learned one must establish a relationship with someone before you can tell if you can trust him and if they are worthy of being your friend, or brother.

Lemonade for Literacy

by Madeline

This past week, Pequot Library held its annual book sale. Pequot Library’s annual book sale has been dubbed the biggest and the best book sale in New England.pequotbooksalesignFor the last four years, Wonderland BookSavers has run a “Lemonade for Literacy” stand during the book sale. The purpose of Lemonade for Literacy is to raise donations to purchase books from Pequot Library’s book sale, and then donate those books. The books we obtained this year via Lemonade for Literacy and Pequot Library’s book sale will be going to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Ghana. lemonadestand3To prepare our stand and concessions, we spruced up some of our old signs and banners and created some new signs with recent pictures of our service work so customers could see the children we serve.

Each night, we baked new batches of brownies, cookies, and rice crispy treats. Every morning before we went to the library, we made a new batch of homemade lemonade. We arrived at the library in the late morning each day to settle ourselves and set up our stand. We propped up a piece of plywood as a table on top of wooden crates, and then swept a yellow and white table cloth over our table. Next, we put our cooler filled with our ice cold lemonade to one side of our stand, and we arrayed our baked goods across the rest of the table. lemonadestand1Instead of having fixed prices on our commodities, we had all our goods priced by donation.

We ran our stand from about 11 AM to 4 PM each day of the book sale. We had many customers, but during the slower times of day, we passed time playing Apples to Apples, UNO, and reading books.

On the last day of the book sale, instead of running Lemonade for Literacy, we selected books from inside the expansive white tent, and then used our $212.50 that we raised through our lemonade stand to purchase 1,500 books.lemonadestand10Through our Lemonade for Literacy stand, we were able to benefit our longtime community partner Pequot Library while collecting books to donate to children in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Ghana.

 

There is no frigate like a book…to take us to the Emily Dickinson Museum

By Madeline

Recently, the team traveled to Amherst, Massachusetts. While we were there, we visited the Emily Dickinson Museum, which is comprised of the Dickinson Homestead and the Evergreens.

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The Dickinson Homestead

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10, 1830, and died in Amherst on May 15, 1886. Dickinson penned nearly 1,800 poems during her life, including one of our team’s favorite poems, There is no Frigate like a Book.

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –
We first encountered this poem when we did a poetry section for our book club shortly after our charity’s inception in the fall of 2012. This poem has been an impetus for many of our projects and our ideas, and for us to learn more about this poem and Emily Dickinson was incredibly special.
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At the museum, we toured the grounds and gardens and listened to an audio guide which informed us about Emily Dickinson’s personal life. The guide also proffered a plethora of Dickinson’s poems and the contexts in which each poem was written.
It was fascinating to see Emily Dickinson’s home and inspirations for her poems, and we will look forward to exploring more about the iconic poet and her literary creations.

Team Wonderland BookSavers Leads Medieval Art Workshop at Pequot Library

By Madeline

Last week, WBS team members Madeline, Claire, Emma and Brooks Morgan led a medieval art workshop at Pequot Library. We examined medieval literature, reflecting especially on the process of creating manuscripts. We also instructed on how to create illuminated manuscripts and write in different cursive styles. Additionally, we read medieval stories and taught Roman Numerals and the medieval calendar system–which operates by recognizing certain days and showing the distance of regular days from the special days to account for time.

During the Middle Ages, manuscripts were one of the few viable ways to preserve information. These books were created by first making parchment. The process of making parchment consisted of first obtaining goat or cow skin. Next, the skin would be soaked in water and lye and cleaned to remove any fibers. The skin would then be stretched to dry, and lastly, the skin would be cut into pieces of parchment. The parchment would then be sewn into gatherings, and the gatherings would be bound into a book. Lastly, clasps would be added to keep the book shut and protect the manuscript. Then, scribes would embark on the lengthy process of copying information into the book, and illuminating certain letters. Lastly, any images would be drawn or painted and the book would be complete.

On the first day, we along with Beth Beaudin, the Special Collections Consultant of Pequot Library, surveyed the process of manuscript making. We also began to teach basic cursive to the children.

Every day we had a snack and recess break, where we played “discus” (frisbee) and “Bubonic Plague” (the game infection, where one person is “it”, and they along with people who have been tagged tag others until only one person is left). We also played “capture the crown”, which was our medieval version of capture the flag.

During the second day we introduced calligraphic cursive styles and how to write in medieval handwriting. The children transcribed poems and also practiced writing their names. We taught the children about the medieval calendar and how to use Roman Numerals. Towards the end of the day, everyone began creating the skeletons for their illuminated letters. We also visited The Birds of America, a book by John James Audubon with a compilation of life-size, chromolithographic American birds.

For the third day, we focused on nobility, coats of arms, and finishing the illuminated letters. Everyone was able to design and create a coat of arms to wear which represented their interests or personality. The zenith of the week was being able to examine a book made in 1190–the oldest book in Pequot Library’s collection. The manuscript was a letter from Pope Gregory on proper behavior and conduct. We also had a guest speaker come and teach about Shakespeare, and we acted out scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Examining the manuscript from 1190

 

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The fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

On the final day of camp, everyone made crowns and armor, finished the cursive books which we began on Monday, and reflected on everything learned during the week. The children collected their amassed number of projects, crowns, letters, books and sheets, and we headed out to play our final game of “capture the crown”.

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Campers wearing crowns and coats of arms

It was incredible to immerse ourselves and other children in medieval studies, and we will look forward to continuing the medieval theme with the reading program this summer at Pequot Library.

 

 

 

Wonderland BookSavers Donates 15,000 Books to Zimbabwe and Ghana

By Madeline

On Thursday June 9, Team Wonderland BookSavers donated 15,000 books which are currently headed to Zimbabwe and Ghana. Along with the books, we also donated over 100 letters written by the children at the Wetherbee School in Massachusetts. These letters will be going to children in Zimbabwe.

We methodically sorted the books based on whether they were primary or secondary reading level. Then, we packed the sorted books into labeled boxes.

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Our community partner Mark Grashow, the president and co-founder of US Africa Children’s Fellowship, came with a tractor-trailer for us to fill with our books which will be delivered to Africa. When Mark arrived, we began loading our books into his truck.

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We carefully arranged the boxes to maximize the space and to ensure that the boxes were secure so the books would be safe.

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After we finished laboriously transporting the heavy boxes of books from our palettes in the garage into Mark’s truck, Mark pulled out some pictures from his trips to Africa. He showed us children holding our books, and also recounted some stories of the children’s excitement when they receive our books.

I had the chance to interview Mark:

We are excited for our books to arrive in Zimbabwe and Ghana, and we can’t wait to see pictures and hear more stories about the children receiving our books!