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Two weeks into school...

And our library is finally up and running, as of yesterday!

Last week I read this blog to most of my classes, and showed them on google maps just how far they traveled.  The kids don't have a good sense of distance; I had to go into street view, show them the little guy walking down the highway a fair bit, and then zoom out to show that distance get smaller... and smaller... and smaller.

The kids loved the photo-journals that our some of the drivers submitted.  In particular, they loved the "Ohio State Flower" and the frequent bacon references.  I had them create mini posters and some time next week I'll make color copies to comb-bind and mail to drivers that are willing to give me their address.  Some had letters of thanks.  Some showed books or highways.  Many featured bacon, traffic cones, or both, and one class was quite taken with Chomp, my air freshener, and for some reason many of them insisted on drawing him.

The older kids in particular were amazed.  One commented about how neat it was that one Facebook status update led to such a huge donation to our school, and another grumbled that they had to learn about the project from me, and not major media sources.  "You'd think people would want to hear GOOD news," he said, and I couldn't help but agree.

I'm not sure where I stuck my camera, and my memory card is in it, but I'll try to find it in the morning to show our new shelving.  When the custodian wheeled out the old shelving, bits of it fell off.  I got a picture of her with one of the shelves on a dolly.  Christie has taken a great deal of pride in the library, and every spare moment she has is in there, working on these books.  This project has given me a new appreciation of her, and how hard she works for these kids and the school.  

The best thing of all, though, is when I walk into another teacher's classroom and see the mess her students have left behind on their way to lunch or recess or even another class:  Binders and textbooks wedged under desks with bits of paper sticking out haphazardly, and on top of the desks, in a place of honor, books that I know that we did not have until a few weeks ago, already in their hands, bookmarks sticking out from between pages they only got a chance to start reading yesterday.

Media mentions

Some places (that I know of) that have picked up this story:

www.nerdist.com

www.mycentraljersey.com

The Clinton, Mo newspaper (which is not online, but I will post a scan/photo when I get one; we made top fold of the front page!)

I have contacted the American Association of School Libraries and the Missouri School Library Association, and will be contacting the Missouri State Teacher's Association next week. 

I am excited about media mentions because I want the drivers to get credit, but also because I've been told that this is an inspiring tale.  I hope that it inspires people to help their local schools.  Times are tough, funds are short, and I don't know of many schools that can't use every bit of help they can get.

Ravenwaift's photos

I told her if I ever move, she's going to help pack:











Expanding the Journey

This endeavor has been a learning experience for me.  The most surprising aspect was the volume of response.  I had people who were way out of the way of the route ask if they could do something to help, because they felt bad they could not drive.  I had people ask if they could offer financial assistance.  One person said, "How can I get a program like this in Florida?"

First off, this wasn't a program - it was a handful of amazing volunteers.  Offers of financial assistance were redirected to the drivers, and Karin requested that people consider donating to local Deaf Ed schools instead.  I told several people that my school was blessed enough by this, and that another school should benefit.

I don't want this to be a one-shot deal.  No, I'm not saying I want another thousand books donated to my school.  I'm saying that I hope that people are inspired by the scale of this venture and realize that they are capable of helping out local schools.  I kept hearing, "I've got a box of books my kids outgrew; can you use them?"  Why not take that box and donate it to a school, shelter, library?  I hear stories of people who try one or two places and when they get turned down, they get discouraged.  Freecycle is amazing for things like this - post that you've got books, and someone, somewhere, will want them.  

If, for some bizarre reason, someone wants to accumulate a massive amount of books to donate at once, try holding a book drive.  Host an event where admission is a book.  Do a two-for-one swap, where people bring in their old books, and for every two they bring, they can take one of someone else's, and then donate the left-overs.  Contact local schools and find out when their book fairs are, and then check to see if the teachers have "wish baskets" there.  Move beyond books - look at adoptaclassroom.com and see if there's a local teacher that inspires you, or maybe even one far away.  Check to see if your local retailer has a school supply donation box (they're quite common this time of year).  Can't afford any of the above?  Call libraries, shelters, and schools and ask if you can volunteer an hour or so to read a book to a group of kids. 

If you're a teacher, librarian, or administrator reading this, do not underestimate the power of asking.  Don't assume someone will tell you no and avoid asking them for that reason.  I would have never dreamed of asking someone in New Jersey to help a school in Missouri.  This whole project was a response to a status update I posted on Facebook.  Asking is powerful, and human generosity even more so.

Good luck, and if you do manage to accomplish something similar, please share it with me.

Getting books ready for kids

Today we started the process of getting the donated books ready for check-out.  I say we started today, but when I arrived this morning I discovered that the custodian's daughter had been hard at work and had already sorted over half of the books.  This meant two things:  We had less work today, and there's no way I can get an exact count or inventory, unless the library's system logs when books are entered in.  I didn't mind too much, though - I really wasn't looking forward to typing and linking 1000 books' worth of titles!

The end result of all the sorting was this cart filled on both sides:



Another cart filled halfway on one side:



Two boxes for Parents as Teachers, and two more to be sorted:



And a few more books and a box of videos; the books here were duplicates and/or non-fiction, which gets treated a little differently (we have to look up the Dewey Decimal number for them):



Here's the young lady who did all that sorting last night and early this morning:



We immediately got to work typing spine labels, finding reading levels to color-code the books, and looking up the non-fiction books at the Library of Congress website.  I had brought my daughters with me, who are five and six and a half.  They're busy little beasties, so I told them to "help" by taking pictures.  You'll notice that this meant, "Take a couple of pictures of people working, and then a whole bunch of your little sister, who will dutifully pose."






At that point, I said, "No, take pictures of the books."  So Beastie #2 posed by one of the boxes of books:




And then posed some more:



And when her sister tried to get an actual shot of work happening, she still managed to work her way into the shot:



At that point, I took the camera away from them.

We worked for about three hours on spine labels.  I used up three whole sheets of labels, which is about 250 books, and we only got through one side of the cart in the first picture.  The other side had more books on it, and that doesn't count the ones on the table, the other half-cart, or the ones that were already finished.

Here's a partial stack:



Since my kids got laid off from the photography job, I gave them another one:  Screen the videos to make sure that there were no scratches in the DVDs or bad spots in the VHS tapes.  This was a very serious job.  I told them they had to watch the whole thing to make sure they were "good". 

Selection was a challenge, partly because there were so many options, and partly because I was a mean mom who would not let her get the stack of Junie B. Jones books that were next to the videos and entertain herself with those, instead.



After we completed the first side of the first rack, one of the teachers had to leave, and my children were getting restless, so we agreed we were going to have to store some of the books and work on them an hour or so at a time after school until they were done.  I have to say, I work with some awesome people - not a one complained about the extra work.  They saw the books, expressed their delight (and I caught one teacher sneaking out a few things to read and then slip back in the pile), and then dove right into the task of getting them ready for the kids.  By the time school starts, most of them will be ready for kids to check out, which is a triumph in itself.

I'd also like to note that my children were deeply disappointed that they did not get their job done, but they did manage to "check" three videos for imperfections, and there were none. 



The books have arrived, Part II

I had a meeting at school at 1:00; we arrived with ten minutes to spare.  Before the meeting began, I sent a couple of teachers out to peek at the back of the Jeep.  Still, I don't think they realized how many books were there until we started unloading them a couple of hours later:



That table is covered with the first of two loads. 

The teachers you'll see here were stunned.  When I transferred books from Mary's vehicle to ours, I was actually speechless for a few moments; I'm sure she thought I was incredibly awkward, but I was afraid I'd start babbling or crying, or both.  When we got the books into the library, I commented that we'd probably doubled our collection.  The other teachers agreed that we may very well have doubled our novels for older kids.  

There were two boxes of board books and those books with the buttons that you push for sounds.  Our Parents as Teachers lady was thrilled to see them, and when she went through them she said there were a few that she knew specific kids would love to read with her.  The books pictured here aren't even all of them; I gave Mary a few of those little kid books for her own two kiddos (she said her older daughter had eyeballed one in particular and would be thrilled) and I snagged a copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar for a lesson I've been planning for weeks for the K-2 kids once school starts.  So these are all the books, minus the ones you can't see because there are books on top of them, and about a half-dozen others.  

This whole box is the series pictured on top, perhaps a dozen or more:



This was taken while we were still unloading the Jeep:



Look at our shiny new floor!  The book shelves are on dollys, and I think they're just place-holders; the new shelves aren't in yet.

Here are some more box contents:









(I think this was the box that had a copy of Gallop - you'll probably see it in other pictures later)







Here is our 7/8 teacher (on the left) and our 5/6 teacher (on the right) showing their absolute delight in Gallop.  I imagine that there might be a battle over that one. 



Note that this is NOT all the boxes' contents.  We'll probably lay them out and sort them a bit tomorrow, and I'll take more pictures then.

Until my next update, I leave you with our new door decor:



Of all the things I've been involved in in my life, this is by far the coolest.

The books have arrived, part 1.

In the spirit of other entries I have received, a photo journal.  This will be in two parts, due to the huge volume of photos.  I want to illustrate for the drivers who volunteered just how rural this area is, and what the students they helped get to see on a daily basis. 

My husband and I headed out around 8ish this morning.  We stopped for breakfast first:



Allison had Kitty with us; we had Chomp, the air freshener (some of you who know me from Facebook and have read my notes there may know him as the air freshener Katarina brought to school for show-and-tell, which her teacher at first thought meant that I made her bring one of those cardboard trees to school until she saw him):



Jeramie wanted to wash the Jeep off first, so Chomp and I had breakfast while he sprayed off most of the dirt; we didn't want another magnet catastrophe:



I keep talking about the kids not getting to see much of the world.  Here's the first 45 minutes of so of our trip, truncated:

Soybeans:



Sunflowers:



Long stretches of highway surrounded by farm land (Interesting tidbit:  I've got a cousin who visited from Germany's "farm region", in the wine valley of the Rhine River.  His home is considered "rural" over there, and when he visited, he said it was the first time in his life he'd ever been able to look out across the land and as far as the eye could see not see a single building or town.):



And corn:



If you want to get the full experience, scroll up and down for about twenty to thirty minutes, and you'll know what the first bit of our drive was, with the exception of two brief moments of what Jeramie insisted I photograph to prove that we get traffic here, too:



And:


In Sedalia, we passed what will soon be THE spot to be in Missouri, according to all the local radio stations:



Outside of Sedalia the land got a lot more interesting.  Missouri is one of the prettiest states I've lived in.  If you look closely, there's a "castle" nestled up in those trees; Bothwell Lodge is a pretty famous landmark around here:



Missouri is also the Cave State.  We've got lots of limestone, and while I don't think I caught any on camera this trip, its' not uncommon to see small caves forming in some of the roadcuts:



Jeramie was gracious enough to chauffeur me so I could take all these pictures:



And Chomp took in the scenery, as well:



Last year, we took the entire school (we're so small we all fit in two school buses) to Fort Osage, and one of the things that awed the kids was the vastness of the Missouri River.  Because of this, I made sure to take lots of pictures of it when we crossed it.  Note the yellow sign warning of falling rock.  The bridge is kind of scary, too - it's very narrow, and if you pass a truck on it, you feel like you've got inches to spare:







Our school is very close to Truman Lake; the kids couldn't get over how similar in size the river was to the lake's multiple arms and branches. 



Shortly after we crossed the river, we made it into Columbia, and after browsing through Staples to see what sort of office supplies I could talk my husband into buying for me (I left empty-handed), we went back to the car just a few minutes before Mary, her mother, and her baby pulled up:



Here's the back of her car; I was surprised she could still fit the baby in there!



The official passing of the magnet (and ignore our expressions - the sun was in our eyes):





Someone said earlier that the photos don't do the amount of books justice; you'll see that in Part II.  Here they are in our Jeep:



Allison had marked one of the boxes:



Inside were books, an envelope of stickers for the kids, and a post card:





We crossed back over the Missouri River, repeated all of the aforementioned trip, and then headed through the town I live in (and where several of our kids go to high school), which I'd like to spotlight for two things.  We've got what I jokingly refer to as the "World's Smallest Dairy Queen":



And there's a hitching post outside the grocery store.



As you can see, it gets a lot of use.



I'd also like to note that we passed a house,



and the "Ohio State Flower", according to Joe:



The trip from Windsor to the school is curvy, tree-filled, with sporadic bits of farmland, and a trip across Truman Lake.  I'll offer those pictures without comment; they speak for themselves:










And the most famous thing we've got in these parts (besides our close proximity to Whiteman Air Force Base; I was disappointed not to see Stealths today and decided not to try to get shots of the fighter planes we saw) is this:



After a bit, we came up on the school.  Notice that we've actually got Relay for Life signage on the main sign; I've never known of any other schools that got that designation, and apparently, we've been featured in the American Cancer Society's publications for some of the things our kids have done for Relay:



After countless hours, some amazing volunteers, and a mere two weeks of travel, the books had made it home:



Part II will show pictures of the books in the library, laid out. 

The end is nigh

^I've always wanted to write that in a serious context

In just about an hour, I will be on the way to meet Mary in Columbia.  My husband will accompany me to help with the transfer and keep me from dying of boredom on the road.  Of course, I have a meeting at 1:00 with a parent at school, so the four hours or so I'm on the road will be spent in a dress (suit jacket tossed in the back and hopefully not to be buried under books) and with way more make-up than I'd normally wear in 90+ degree heat.  I say that to prepare you for the pictures later; I don't want everyone thinking I got this dressed up just to haul books.  I'm excited about them, but not skirt-and-heels excited.  There's a difference.  :)

The past two weeks have been so very surreal.  I had family asking me about the journey yesterday at a birthday party, and I'm sure I babbled.  I just could not contain how happy I was, or impressed, or grateful, to his handful of strangers who have done so much for these kids.  

Books are a culture in my home.  We have a TV set that gets turned on maybe once a week to watch a movie, and my kids spend their time either playing, going online to learning websites like pbskids or Starfall, or reading (and okay, I admit it, watching movies on Netflix).  The first thing people see when they come into my home is the eight foot wide, floor-to-ceiling book case, with books stacked on it two deep in some rather haphazard piles because there's no other way they'll all fit.  They consist of about half the books in our home.  The rest are hidden away on nightstands, on desks, on top of dressers, and in closets.  To know that I'm helping to bring that to my students is quite honestly one of my greatest triumphs as a teacher.

I will be late coming home today, because once I get my hands on those boxes (after the meeting, of course) I'll probably begin sifting through the piles and trying to figure out what we need to key into our computer system and what will be passed along to another library.  I will admit that the hard part starts now, and I'd like to give a shout-out to our wonderful, wonderful custodian and her daughter, who have worked so hard to do the physical rebuilding and organizing of the library.  Christie and Lacrisha (and I know I just spelled that wrong) have been putting in major hours, and will continue to do so, to get the library ready for the kids.  Lacrisha in particular is eager to get started with entering the books in the system for us.  (Now if eager means "happy", "dreading", or "both", I'm not sure.)  Our new shelves come in next week, and the library should be set to open the second week of school.  Of course, I'll be posting pictures and giving a glimpse of what those precious boxes contain.

For those who have followed this from the beginning, thank you so much for your support.  For the drivers, words are not enough.  And for Karin and E, I cannot imagine the huge amount of karma points you have racked up making this happen for me.
Joe, Lizzy, and Mrs. Bobcat Warrior at their transfer:



Josh, Ravenwaift, and Bobcat Warrior at their transfer:



Bobcat Warrior would like to comment that, "For the record, Mrs. Bobcat Warrior and I had Bacon-Lover’s Omelets over home fries for breakfast last Saturday morning. Didn’t want to be accused of sacrilege by other Snopesters."

Joe and Lizzy's story

Saturday, 31 July, 2010. 0600 hours. Alarm goes off. I spring into action - immediately, I shut off the alarm and go back to sleep.

Two hours later, Lizzy and I rolled out of bed. We dropped Nicholas off with the babysitter, get the last bits of junk out of the car, and headed east. Actually, we headed south, first, but then after going south for a bit, we headed east.

The leisurely Saturday morning drive gave us ample opportunity to enjoy the natural flora of the great state of Ohio. For instance, the state flower of Ohio was in bloom, showing off its distinctive orange and white striped patterns.



It was a beautiful morning and we enjoyed the rolling hills of eastern Ohio.



I drove on the ride out to Wheeling. It was a good opportunity for me to enjoy the open roads, the scenery, the company of my wife, and for me to get my various chins out for some fresh air.



We pulled into the parking lot only about 10 minutes behind schedule.

“What kind of car does Allison have,” Lizzy asked me.

“Um ... I can’t remember, but she’s sitting right there,” I said, pointing to the woman sitting on the step in front of the hotel. Her bright red snopes shirt gave her away.

We parked next to the car with the “1000 Books, 1000 Miles” door magnet and went straight to work.

I have to say here that the pictures didn’t give an adequate impression of just how many books there were. I was suddenly worried that they wouldn’t all fit into the Escort after all. But we started loading...



...and loading...



...and loading!


Somehow we managed to get all of those boxes into a ‘99 Escort along with two adults. We ceremoniously moved the door magnets from Allison’s car to ours, and then the three of us went off to the Subway across the street for lunch.

I confess now that I did not eat bacon. I am ashamed.

Finally we realized it was time to head back if we were going to meet Robert on time.

The trip home started off as well as the trip out.



But before long the weather began to turn on us. The skies darkened and the rain stared falling, mostly in dull, sporadic drizzles.



Lizzy took the wheel for the drive back. She takes her driving very seriously.



Soon the orange barrels re-appeared and traffic came to a near stop. One five mile stretch of construction took us over an hour to get through.



Finally, nearly ninety minutes after our expected arrival time, we pulled into the parking lot of Home Depot.

“What kind of car does Robert drive?” I wondered out loud, pulling up my email on my phone to remind myself.

“I don’t know, but I think that’s him there,” Lizzy said, pointing out the gentleman in the car who had just beeped and waved at us.

It was still raining lightly, so we went to work immediately, unloading the books from the Escort and into Robert’s car. We chatted for a minute, Robert snapped some pictures, and then we were all off again.

Then we went home and went back to bed.

Also, I neglected to mention we had a minor mishap just after leaving Wheeling. Sadly, just as we got on the freeway, one of the door magnets tore off and went fluttering away back down the road.