Major Announcement: The Global Read Aloud Gives Back! #GRA16

For several years I have witnessed the power of the Global Read Aloud and how much the community does to make the world a better place.  From students doing PSA style videos to educate others on the use of the “R” word in honor of Melody, penny drives to donate to Zoo Atlanta in honor of Ivan, to food drives to help refugees because of reading Fish, the GRA community has stepped up and tried to make the world a better place.  In fact, the children and educators that believe in the Global Read Aloud are what makes it such a special project.  For the past seven years we have believed that we could change the world through a shared read aloud and I think we have, so it is now time to take it to the next level.

I am so excited to announce that for the first time ever, the Global Read Aloud will be partnering up with a micro non-profit to harness all this power of good and hopefully make the lives better of children.  When choosing a non-profit I wanted to make it meaningful, I wanted any help they received to truly make a huge difference, and I wanted the nonprofit to share a similar story of the GRA; someone saw a problem and decided to do something about it.  That is why I am so proud to announce Palms & Souls as our very first non-profit partnership.

Student at home

Who is behind Palms & Souls?

Educator, Reidun Bures, who I work with at OMS,  and her husband Ryan,  traveled to Guatemala for their honeymoon in 2014, never dreaming that they would end up founding a nonprofit. They write,

“We spent a week volunteering at El Buen Samaritano community center in Jocotenango. The community center provides healthy meals, primary education, tutoring, school supplies, and a safe place to play for 60 students. We left the center with a sense of awe and love for all they were doing. But we were also disturbed after seeing the enormous barriers these people faced to bettering their own situations.”

What is the problem in Jocotenango?

In Guatemala, school is only compulsory through 6th grade. Less than 40% of students make it past middle school. Our nonprofit, Palms and Souls, is committed to changing that narrative.  We are partnering with El Buen Samaritano to help them meet some basic needs of the students, but so much more is needed.  These kids need the one tool that has been shown to improve overall academic performance and lead to enriching lives. They need books!

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Why are books so important?

The students in Jocotenango do not have access to books at school, home, or in the community center. Middle and secondary school students are expected to advance in their educations without any access to choice reading material. As teachers who read, we know that books are essential for engaging in topics that stimulate complex thinking and can lead to greater opportunities, yet these students are being denied this vital resource. Access to books would not only help students during their secondary school studies, it would also give them a greater chance to go to college. In order to get admitted to the public university they must take a difficult test that includes reading, math, English, and chemistry. Given what we know about the effect of reading on standardized test scores, access to books coupled with established independent reading times could drastically increase their chances of doing well on this test. Most importantly, books give kids the power to imagine, to dream, and to wonder.  They allow kids to see a world outside of their current situation which is filled with realities of extreme poverty. Books allow kids to dream of a better future even when it seems impossible.  

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At the Community Center 

So how is GRA helping?

Palms and Souls is partnering with the amazing Global Read Aloud community to build a library at the community center in Jocotenango!  We can fill shelf after shelf with new and compelling books that will make the students feel valued. We can build a reading community that emphasizes learning, independence, and hope.  We can do this!  

What can you do?

We know that the Global Read Aloud community is filled with innovative teachers and students who understand and appreciate the power of books. So, we want to let your classrooms be creative in how you help. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. You can choose books to purchase for the library at palmsandsouls.org/bookdrive. The books you select will be purchased in Guatemala and delivered to the community center. It will be a tangible gift from your classroom to theirs.
  2. Other monetary donations are also welcome and needed. The money will be used to purchase books, food staples, and employ academic tutors. Donate at palmsandsouls.org/take-action.
  3. Host your own penny war, car wash or other creative fundraiser.  We would love to see classrooms engineer their own way to contribute to this cause. Feel free to contact us at info@palmsandsouls.org and let us know what your are doing!

Partnering with a nonprofit to truly make a difference in the lives of other children has long been a dream of mine.  I hope that through the combined efforts of GRA that we can help these kids in Guatemala not just have books to read, but give them the tools they need to truly change their life.  So as part of your participation in the GRA this year, I hope you will include something to help Palms & Souls.  Whether it is simply purchasing a book or two from your classroom or something larger than that, together we can make the biggest difference.  So get your students involved, ask them how they would like to participate.  Let’s flood this little non-profit with love and books.

Please let me know if you have any questions and share your amazing ideas in the comments.  I hope you are as excited about this as I am!

PS:  I was asked on Facebook how much the nonprofit proselytizes since in the About section of their website, they say “We want students to grow in love of each other and Christ so they can make a positive impact on their own community.”  My answer was: “Not at all as far as what I know. I think they feel called to do it because of their faith but it is not meant to advocate their faith to others. I do not share their faith and would not pick one that proselytizes.”