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Book Drive

Posted: 12/06/2011

“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are,” said Mason Cooley, an English professor known for his witty aphorisms. Guided by this idea, the 16 students in Rebecca Johnson’s Scribner Seminar “Reading Minds: The History and Science of Literacy,” embraced the service-learning component of their class with gusto. In mid-November they launched a weeklong drive to collect books for readers ranging in age from toddler to late teen.

Donations came from students, faculty, and staff at Skidmore; the Lucy Scribner Library; the Greenberg Child Care Center; and the Friends of the Saratoga Springs Public Library. Some people donated money and the students used the funds to purchase books through the Scholastic Reading Program sponsored by the childcare center. Additional seminar funds were used to purchase books in good condition at the region’s Salvation Army stores.

When they were done, the students had 1,111 books, all of which will go to the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Albany Medical Center Hospital. The room is a gathering spot for families whose relatives are patients at the center, as well as the patients themselves. The family room is located near the hospital’s neonatal intensive care and pediatric intensive care units.

Johnson became familiar with the family room when her twin sons were born prematurely in 2010. The babies spent their earliest days in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Johnson’s 20-month-old daughter would visit her at the hospital and the two went to the family room to talk and read. “I noticed there was only a small bookcase with some pretty old books to choose from there,” said Johnson.

An assistant professor of psychology whose research specialty is the psychology of reading, Johnson developed a course that allows students to learn multiple perspectives on reading, the historical background and cultural significance of reading, as well as the psychological and neurological underpinnings of reading.

In addition to the collection, the students spent time reading to the preschoolers in the child care center and made 40 bookmarks to be given to young people who are patients at Albany Med.

The students received a wide range of books, said Johnson. “We got three copies of Goodnight Moon, books for early readers (four copies of Dinosaurs Love Underpants and the entire collections of Magic Tree House and Magic School Bus), several copies of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, lots of Roald and all of the Junie B. Jones books, and boxed sets of the Narnia series and the Harry Potter collection.

The books are currently being sorted and a special sticker proclaiming “Skidmore Shares More So More Kids Read More” is being affixed to each book. The books and bookmarks will be delivered to Albany Medical Center within the next week.

The project was an overwhelming success, said Johnson. “The book drive allowed us as a class to take what we learned about the importance of reading, share this passion with the Skidmore community, and then collectively increase literacy opportunities in the community,” she said.

(Photos by Elise Auger '14 and Lauren Elsner '13)