Each of Woodward Elementary School’s students was able to leave school for the year with a book to take home and read over the summer, largely due to the efforts of two men from the nearby Hillsdale neighborhood.
Kristin Gokce said when she asked her neighbors for help collecting used books for the school, Jim Saunders and Ray Redmond took the call seriously.
Over the course of several months, the two would bring boxes of books for Gokce to deliver to the school, eventually donating more than 400 books.
“They were like the little guardian angels. It was incredible,” Gokce said.
Saunders used credits he had built up from an online paperback book-trading club to get about 300 children’s books. He would keep an eye out for children’s books on a book-trading website, especially books about Disney characters, animals or history, he said.
“It takes a while to get these books in because they’re mailed from all over the country. When they do have them, they will send them out. I’ll be getting, 30, 40 books a week,” Saunders said.
Then, Saunders and Redmond went shopping to find even more used books.
“Ray and I went out to Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul and other thrift shops and got another 100 books,” Saunders said.
Saunders said he wanted to help when he learned that many of the children at the school didn’t have books to read at home.
“We wanted to feel useful and that’s the way we could do this since there was a need,” Saunders said.
Gokce, a Woodward parent who volunteers at the school, said many of the students at the school come from Spanish-speaking families. For them, learning to read can be especially challenging because English is not their first language.
Another obstacle for some of the students is they don’t have access to books to read at home, Gokce said.
“A lot of them don’t have the opportunity to have someone read to them. A lot of them miss out on that,” Gokce said. “They’re facing many barriers just to get out of the gate.”
Saunders and Redmond said they’ve enjoyed collecting books for the school, which is only a few blocks from the neighborhood they’ve called home for more than 20 years.
“It was a lot of fun for us and kept us busy,” Saunders said. “It was a fun, little project.”
And they said they plan to keep collecting books next school year.
“We may inquire over there at Cross Keys High School,” Saunders said. “They are in need of books, too. We could probably get a number of books for teenagers.”