“Two teachers drive up in their cars to a neighborhood, pop open the trunk, pull out two chairs, read with children and give them books.” That’s how Mary Andrews, the visionary behind READ2ME: Tailgate Stories, describes the program she created in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in 2009.
Many years ago, Mary was vacationing with her family in Mexico and saw children running around in some grassy fields. Aware that some children in Mexico cannot afford to go to school, Mary wished she could gather the children together and read to them while sitting on the grass. Fast forward ten years later to a neighborhood in Chapel Hill where teachers began doing just that: reading to children while sitting on a blanket in the grass. With a grant from the Public School Foundation, an organization that funds teachers’ good ideas in CHCCS, Mary was able to run READ2ME that first summer. In 2011, Mary met Ginger Young, Book Harvest’s founder and Executive Director. What if children who came to READ2ME: Tailgate Stories could take books home to keep forever? And that is what has been happening ever since the summer of 2011.
READ2ME has now gone system wide, and with funding from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and the Public School Foundation, every elementary school has two neighborhoods where READ2ME takes place. Teachers, who are paid, visit the neighborhoods and read to children for one hour a day, at the same time each day, for one week.
I had the privilege of visiting READ2ME this summer. I turned into the neighborhood and saw two boys riding bikes. I decided to follow them and they led me right to where a teacher was getting set up. She pulled out her chair, her blankets, and boxes of books donated by Book Harvest. The children started coming out in groups to sit on the blankets in the shade and listen to their teacher read to them. While she read, another teacher from the school walked up, and the students were so excited to see her! How often do children get to see their teachers in the summer? How often do they get to experience listening to their teachers read to them in their very own neighborhood? After the teacher finished reading, a mother and daughter read a book to the group: the mother reading in Spanish and the daughter reading in English. Other parents walked over and joined us on the blanket. After the reading was finished, the children stood up and gathered around the blankets. We took books out of the boxes and spread them on the blankets. One-by-one the children chose a book to take home and to add to their home library.
And what is Mary’s favorite part of READ2ME? She quickly says, “That it IS.”
Book Harvest is grateful for this successful partnership which puts books in the hands of kids who need them during the summer months when many children do not have access to books.