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Book Buddies Help Spread Literacy To EP 1st Graders

EVERGREEN PARK, IL – What started as a goal to make sure every first-grade student in Evergreen Park has a new book to read on Christmas Day has become a fun holiday tradition for both the Evergreen Park Community High School Service Club members who volunteer and the kids who get the books.

EPCHS Service Club students made two trips to Evergreen Park Elementary School District 124 schools during their final week before winter break to deliver the already wrapped children’s books as part of the annual “Book Buddies” project. Senior Mariana Ferreira and Junior Julianna Black visited the first-grade classes at Northeast and Southeast elementary schools on Tuesday, while seniors Denisa Neda and Karina Moctezuma went to Southwest, Northwest and Most Holy Redeemer on Thursday.

The high school students not only delivered a book to every first-grader at school those days, but sat down and read one to them as well.

“The kids are always so receptive,” Dr. Tina Ward, media specialist at EPCHS, said. “This has become one of our favorite things. It’s well-received by all.”

Having the books pre-wrapped adds a layer of excitement for the younger kids, Ward added, with the visit more akin to opening a new gift on Christmas. This year, about 200 books were gifted as part of the project.

Ward said she and EPCHS Library Assistant Karen Hewitt came up with the Book Buddies idea in 2018 because “we wanted every kid to have a new book to open on Christmas.”

It also answered a staff challenge to come up with new ways to connect with District 124 schools, and promotes literacy in the process.