When Northern Michigan University alumna Christy Sener Townsend (BS ‘11) shared a link on her Facebook page seeking book donations to stock her classroom library, NMU's School of Education, Leadership and Public Service answered the call with a shipment of young adult literature. Townsend is an English teacher at Springport Public High School in south-central Michigan.
“I teach in a very small rural community (population 783) that's home to many families living in poverty,” wrote Townsend in a letter expressing her appreciation. “Two boxes of brand-new hardcover books has already impacted the literacy rate of this community, youth and adults alike…Thank you! It's definitely a great day to be a Wildcat educator.”
At the beginning of the school year, Townsend launched a donation campaign through donorschoose.org, a website dedicated to helping teachers fund projects for their classrooms. She was asking for help from donors to supply fun, engaging titles that her students would otherwise have difficulty accessing.
“A classroom library full of interesting topics, authors, and genres helps students get hooked on a reading habit,” Townsend wrote on the campaign website. “Even reading 10 minutes a day can have a massive impact on the number of words a child is exposed to and build a college and career-ready vocabulary.”
After Townsend shared a link to the site on Facebook, NMU Professor Christi Edge donated the books. Townsend reported that “several students lamented while going through the books that they rarely read for pleasure anymore. One student suddenly realized that the solution is a school-wide book club!” The first meeting was scheduled the day Townsend wrote the letter to NMU, and she indicated several teachers would also be participating.
Associate Dean Joe Lubig explained that Northern routinely donates books reviewed by Edge to NMU teacher candidates and schools, but it's rare to receive a hand-written thank you and photos in response to the gesture.
“I think this is the type of situation that often goes unseen in our communities,” Lubig said. “Getting access to materials is often difficult due to location and/or budgets and budget priorities. Her school is one of those high-poverty schools we always talk about and the type of school NMU is working hard to support. We made a difference because a teacher asked, she made her ask public, and then we had a little help. Imagine what we could do on a larger scale with our curriculum and our collective expertise on this campus."
This story was prepared by Brooke Baneck and Kristi Evans.