This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website and the Delaware County Daily Times‘ website.
WESTTOWN — Carol Baker enjoys the moment when children have that “ah ha” moment — when their face lights up once they understand something. She lives for “turning on the light.”
After all, that’s the whole reason why she started Read2Dream, a website which encourages children to read by helping them set and reach obtainable goals.
Baker, who recently retired from Hillsdale Elementary School in the West Chester Area School District, has become popular in the community because of her website and the work she does in person, including distributing book bundles to young children, as she did Wednesday morning at Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School.
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“My goal was to stop the summer slide with the local kids who have a need and they’re in summer school,” Baker said. “When they go home, they have a whole month and many of the kids don’t have books. It’s not my judgement to decide who does and who doesn’t (receive books). Our goal was to give a pack of 10 books to every child that’s attending.”
The children receiving the bundles of new books at Westtown-Thornbury were in the district’s Extended School Year (ESY) six-week program.
The program is designed to support students with a disability to maintain academic, social, behavioral and communication skills they learned during the regular year.
“We have some (bundles) left and in the next two weeks, we’re going to take the bundles out to all 10 elementary schools and ask them to distribute them to the kids who didn’t make it to the summer school,” Baker said.
The books in the bundle were a combination of books easy for the children, challenging ones and then at least two to have an adult sit and read with them.
“We did a lot of ordering from May until two weeks ago,” Baker said. “We just needed more of an assortment.”
To help fill the need of books for children, Read2Dream is consistently searching for grant money for different projects.
For the book bundles for the ESY children, Baker approached the Westtown-Goshen Rotary Club.
“When I talked to them, I told them about what I wanted to do and they paid for a significant part of it,” Baker said. “Read2Dream Foundation pitched in the rest.”
With the money, Read2Dream was able to buy over 2,400 books to distribute Wednesday.
But that was just for Wednesday.
“Over the summer, just in the West Chester schools, it’s over 5,000,” Baker said.
With all the books comes the need for volunteers to unload, sort, inventory, stamp, bundle, box and load again.
Baker even received international help with a student from Germany and one from India.
“They carried (boxes) up and down two flights of steps,” Baker said. “They were involved in the whole-entire process. They decided that at about every six steps, they would put one of the kids. They called it their ‘book brigade.’ I thought it was very clever.”
Even more previous to Baker was the fact that during lunch break, the volunteer kids did the one things she loves to see them do.
“They grabbed a bottle of water, sat down, grabbed a book and threw themselves all over the warehouse and just laid there and read for 20 minutes,” Baker said.
This isn’t the first time Baker and Read2Dream has done something like this.
“My kid volunteers at Hillsdale got together, got a grant through the district and decided to help kids in a domestic violence shelter,” she said. “When the kids leave in an emergency, they go with their pajamas on.”
And that was just one of the events. Since December, they have given out over 900 new books.
But even before Read2Dream, Baker has constantly tried to get children to read.
She would even reward them with little gifts along the way.
“I’ve always encouraged kids to read and I’ve always given out books, so I would give out these bears for 28 years when kids read 100 books or more,” Baker said.
Read2Dream has become just what Baker had envisioned and has now become a global entity.
“What our goal and focus is is building a literacy community from our center outward,” she said. “The website was created four years ago and kids go on and build a virtual library to get kids to log in their books for free. We have kids in 101 countries using the website. It’s fantastic.”
For more information on Read2Dream, visit www.read2dream.com.