November Non-Profit Spotlight: My Very Own Book
Throughout the month of November, North Texas Kids is spotlighting local non-profit organizations and the people behind them in our e-newsletter. This week, we are getting to know Helen Van Auken and Kelley Van Auken, Founding Members of My Very Own Book.
Why did you start My Very Own Book (MVOB)?
With cable TV, video games, and the internet available to children, reading books for entertainment is not always their first choice. Children need to be motivated to read so they can learn what authors, series, and genres they like. They need to be given the opportunity to establish a connection to literature, which helps them learn to love to read for entertainment and become lifelong readers.
As a Reading Specialist in an elementary school in a low-income neighborhood, I was conducting a workshop with parents on how to read with their children. We had a great crowd of parents who were very eager to extend learning into their homes. However, after the workshop several of them pulled me aside and shared they had no books at home for their children. (Nationally, 61% of low-income households have no children’s books in their homes.) We brainstormed many options, such as the public library, but that was not an option for many due to the library being too far/not on a bus route, fines for lost books, or work schedule conflicts. These were parents who were eager to help their children, but very real economic barriers prevented them from doing so. I knew all students, regardless of socio-economic status, need to be motivated to read, but these students also needed to obtain books.
In 2006, with district funding, I started a reading club. The students read outside of school hours, recorded their minutes, and at the end of each six weeks period they were rewarded with a certificate (Bronze, Silver or Gold) and a new, free book of their choice. At the end of the year, the student in each class who had read the most also received a Star Reader medal. We were motivating students to read while also helping them start home libraries. Unfortunately, after three years, district funding dried up and I was planning to retire again. In 2009, with the help of a Reading Specialist colleague, Dot Pitts, and my adult daughter, Kelley Van Auken, who has fundraising and administrative experience, we started My Very Own Book to keep the program alive and expand it to more schools.
What is the mission of MVOB?
The mission of My Very Own Book (MVOB) is to increase literacy skills of students in low-income neighborhoods by motivating them to read outside of school hours and to put new books in the homes of families who often can’t afford the luxury of purchasing their own books.
The MVOB program runs just as it did when I was a Reading Specialist, with students being rewarded for minutes read outside of schools hours with certificates and new, free books of their choice. We provide each school with more than double the books they need to set up a school “free bookstore” with ample choices (the extras are returned at the end of the year). We still provide Star Reader Medals, but we also provide an extra small prize for Gold Readers and honor the top reader from each school at a banquet.
During our first program year, the 2009-2010 school year, we served three schools. Due to outstanding support from the community, in 2010-2011 we were able to expand to serve five schools. In those first two school years, students earned more than 10,000 new books for reading for approximately 8 million minutes. This school year we are serving seven schools and expect to give out more than 11,000 new books.
How can the community help MVOB?
- Join our e-mail list. E-mails update you about our program, volunteer opportunities and events (such as our family friendly Touch-A-Truck event). We never e-mail more than once/week and you can unsubscribe at any time. Go to http://www.myveryownbook.org/Email.html to sign up.
- Make a monetary donation, payroll deduction donation, or donate new books. Go to http://www.myveryownbook.org/Donate.html to make a donation on-line or for more information.
- Host a Book Drive. Talk to your employer, child’s school, religious institution, social organization, etc. about hosting a new book drive. If you broach the subject and they want to learn more, we can take it from there. We can do as little or as much as they want to make it easy and successful. We can even have a vendor sell books on-site (optional). Elementary schools can do something in conjunction with the book fair. There is lots of information on the website Donate page listed above or you can e-mail Kelley Van Auken with questions.
- Host a giving party. For your child’s birthday, the holidays, office gathering, or just because, host a party and ask guests to bring monetary or new book donations rather than gifts. E-mail Kelley with your idea and for more information.
Read Other North Texas Kids Non-Profit Spotlights
Stacie Martin, the founder of Single Parent Advocate (SPA)
Sarah Morris, Founder of This Side Up Family Fun Center