Abigail Stockwell’s Girl Scout troop was looking to launch an education-oriented project in March when the eighth grader saw a news item about Read On Mesa, a summer reading program that puts donated books into the hands of underprivileged kindergartners.
The other girls in Troop 2735 liked the idea and started collecting children’s books. Then Abigail’s younger sister, Emily, got in the act by inviting her friends to bring donated books to her eighth birthday party on March 28. They showed up with 120 books.
That prompted Abigail and her mom Raelyn, who leads the troop, to invite other Girl Scout troops to donate books. Abigail soon had almost 700 books. Flush with success, she launched a book drive at her school, the Mesa Academy for Advanced Studies, and the book tally climbed past 900.
On Monday, May 5, Abigail, her mom, sister, and friend and fellow scout Lexie Smith loaded boxes filled with 921 cleaned and sorted children’s books into the back of the Stockwells’ van for delivery to Mesa United Way, where jaws dropped as box after box of books were brought through the door.
What’s Abigail’s secret to a successful book drive? “You just have to ask people to help,” she said with a big smile. “It’s also easier if you find organizations that are willing to help.”
An avid reader, Abigail wants to coordinate more education-related Girl Scout projects in the future, and she explained that she’ll build on her experience with the Read On Mesa book drive.
Read On Mesa is a new joint venture of Mesa United Way and the City of Mesa aimed at helping low-income families build home libraries, which encourage childhood reading through the summer and improve future academic success. While the average middle class home library contains dozens of books for children and adults, low-income homes often have none, said Read On Mesa coordinator Patricia Mullen. Children without books at home fall behind each school year, making it difficult to catch up and succeed, she said.
“The 12 Books program is aimed to reduce summer reading loss and encourage the love of reading for these kindergartners,” Mullen said. “The list of children without books is long so we encourage your support of Read On Mesa through Mesa United Way. This is an ongoing program that you can support any time of year.”
Books that are new or in good condition that are appropriate for children in kindergarten through second grade can be dropped off at Mesa United Way, 137 E. University Drive, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Monetary donations that will be used to purchase discounted books also may be dropped off or mailed, or made online at www.mesaunitedway.org (click the Read on Mesa link under Take Action).