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Personalized books spark a love of reading for Waco ISD elementary students

Throughout the school year, first and second graders in Waco ISD have been receiving books with an unexpected twist. Each book has been personalized in such a way that a central character in the story shares the name, gender and race or ethnicity of the student receiving it.

The project was initiated by the YMCA of Central Texas whose executive director, Rodney Martin, had helped to distribute personalized books through other YMCAs where he worked before coming to Waco. The project started last year with several community organizations coming together to sponsor books for every second-grade student in Waco ISD. Now in the second year of the project, the Junior League of Waco has sponsored a book for every first-grade student, and the Waco Rotary Club has purchased a book for every second grader.

Members of the three community groups deliver the books to each elementary campus and read with students while they are there. The deliveries started in December, and the final delivery will take place April 26 at Dean Highland Elementary School.

“I think that almost all of us can remember a book that made a lasting impression, one that we read over and over again,” Martin said. “It’s so cool to watch these first and second graders discover that they are characters in the stories. We hope that these books spark a life-long love of reading for kids in our community.”

Dr. Hazel Rowe, interim superintendent, said, “We are deeply appreciative of how these groups have come together in support of our students and in support of literacy. Whether or not a child is reading on grade-level by the time he or she leaves third grade is a critical indicator of his or her future academic success. When it comes to literacy, it takes all of us – teachers, parents and community members – working together.”

The YMCA of Central Texas, Waco Rotary Club and Junior League of Waco have committed to continue the program for the 2019-2020 school year.