April 11, 2018
On Friday March 23, Atholton High School’s own National English Honors Society (NEHS) drove to downtown Baltimore to deliver an astonishing twenty five hundred books to Harlem Park Elementary, a Title I school with limited reading material and other scholarly resources. The books, which ranged from pre-K to eighth grade literacy levels, were collected from Atholton students and community members over the course of a month.
Atholton NEHS was greeted by Danielle Harris, a social worker who has been working for twelve years to help children such as the students at Harlem Park. “[Elementary school] is where the foundation of literacy is set and people’s confidence in their reading abilities are fostered,” Harris said. “Reading is the key to all other subjects – quite simply, if you have low reading comprehension, reading the text for science, social studies, and math word problems is going to be impacted. I’m a firm believer that all students should have access to reading materials, especially as their reading levels improve.”
Atholton NEHS not only delivered books to Harlem Park, but they also split up into different classrooms to read to some of the younger students. Bella Saunders, a member of NEHS, weighed in on the beneficent experience. “Little things can make a big difference. The kids will remember it fora long time,” she said. “It’s made an impact on their day, and they know that there are people in the world who want to do good things. It was cool to see a small slice of that impact, even if it was just for an hour or two.”
Sophomore Zoe Baskerville also agreed. “Reading is very important,” she said. “This is an area that is very impoverished, and it’s important to try to encourage kids like them to raise their literacy levels, to read, and to get them college ready.”
Sophie Lasher, a senior, shared her thoughts on the experience. “I joined NEHS to share my love for words and language with other people who felt it too. I honestly didn’t anticipate this sort of opportunity, but I think it’s amazing we were able to take it a step further and share our love for English with a community in need,” she said. “Going to an underprivileged school and having fewer resources shouldn’t be a setback that continually affects [the students]. Providing reading material is a step in the right direction to evening out the playing field despite the school’s financial situation.”
Harris talked to the NEHS members about how receiving these books and being able to gift them to the students was huge for Harlem Park. “The children of Harlem Park will greatly benefit from the books that were donated. Books can’t be checked out of our school library, so this will give access for free books to be taken home. Additionally, some books are going to be housed in our Literacy Lab so that when students are pulled by staff, they have new books to practice with. Also, there are going to be some stuffed animals for kids to read to now!”
“They seemed really excited to learn,” Saunders remarked about the young students. “Being a teacher is so hard and the people that were there were so devoted to what they do. It’s all about making that little effort to do something nice for someone else, because it can make a big impact.”