Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Making a Difference, One Book at a Time - the Guys Lit Wire & Operation Teen Book Drop Event for Navajo & Apache Teens
ETA: AS OF SATURDAY, APRIL 24TH, WE ARE A SELLOUT! THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HELPED US GET 772 BOOKS TO OJO ENCINO DAY SCHOOL AND ALCHESAY HIGH
After the impressive success of last year's Book Fair for Boys that saw over 600 books sent to the LA County Detention Center, GLW has teamed up with the Readergirlz, YALSA and If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything, (A national reading club for Native American children) for another book fair event to get books to students enrolled at Ojo Encino Day School and Alchesay High School. You can read more at the Readergirlz and the ALA about the massive effort to get books from publishers to multiple reservation school libraries across the country, but for GLW it is all about two wishlists for these two schools and a plan to build on our success from last year by making a difference for a lot of teens who could use our help.
There are a lot of kids that need books in America - heck there are kids all over the world who need books. And while the news of the latest e-reader or publisher shakeups or outrageous advance to a political or celebrity writer makes readers everywhere wonder if books still matter, it only takes a few minutes worth of research about life for the average Native American teen on the reservation to realize that they are important, perhaps more now than ever. Books are power - we are all book lovers and we know that; most of us learned it when we were kids. Books showed us worlds like our own, as well as places we could not imagine. They taught us how to cope, gave us big ideas to ponder and dared us to dream great futures.
If you love books then you know what they can do and you can understand how significant they can be to these particular kids.
Ojo Encino Day School is located twenty-five miles west of Cuba, New Mexico on the Navajo Nation. It is a BIA school serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade. We are directing our efforts towards the older kids in the middle school age range, or about eighty of the total students. You can read more about Ojo Encino and their recently built (and LONG overdue) new school (no more portables!) here. The Ojo kids are way into nonfiction, (it's what the boys find most appealing) and wanted books on military history, animals and drawing. The girls wanted fantasy and mystery. The wishlist is especially important to the students of Ojo Encino for, as their librarian Mary Nickless explained to the ALA recently, "“In their lives, they really don’t have new books.”
Here at GLW we hate hearing something like that, and we're sure all of you hate it too.
Alchesay High School is located in Whiteriver, Arizona in the heart of the White Mountain Apache Reservation - home of the legendary Fort Apache. (Their school district has a web presence so you can learn more about the school here.) There are currently 750 students enrolled at Alchesay and they are miles from the nearest bookstore; it's about four hours to the closest city. Reading Specialist Marilyn Hill made it quite clear to me how important books would be for the students there and how excited they were at the project. The Alchesay kids had ideas about books they wanted (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, a graphic novelization of Hamlet, everything - and I mean EVERYTHING - by Sherman Alexie, etc.) and the books they receive will be used not only in the library but in classroom discussions and as academic achievement awards. They are very excited and plan to check their wishlist constantly to see what is coming their way.
Just as we did for last year's book fair, we have set the wishlists up at Powells.com. We are big fans of Powells Books here at GLW - we love that it's a bricks and mortar store that contributes to the Portland literary scene in a huge way and we love that it covers such a wide variety of titles. Powells sells new and used and from personal experience I know how fine their used copies are. Feel free to choose a used book if you need to save few dollars - just make sure it is a "standard" used copy as "student owned" can be marked up (which is why they are so dirt cheap).
There is a list for each school, and you can easily select which to shop from (or shop from both!). A lot of these titles will likely be unfamiliar - at Ojo Encino Mary pointed me in the direction of a small publisher out of Flagstaff who specializes in English/Navajo titles so there are several bilingual titles from there on that list, for example. Rest assured that a lot of time has gone in crafting these lists - many different resource lists were studied, the schools weighed in with what they need and Dr. Lorienne Roy from If I Can Read, I Can Do Anything read over the lists to make sure they were pitch perfect. It's not all surprises however - E. Lockhart is here, and Mike Lupica and James Howe and yes, the Ojo Encino girls wanted the Twilight books. There is a lot of nonfiction per their request, and a lot of graphic novels. Mary Nickless asked for books about eagles and horses and basketball, Marilyn Hill was looking for Jimmy Baca, the Titanic and several poetry collections. I will be adding books as the lists are shopped - especially sequels so be sure to check back if your curious to see what else the kids are clamoring for.
As for accessing the lists, here is the drill. Powells is a bit tighter than Amazon so there are a couple of extra steps. First, hit the Powells site and on the upper right click on "wish list". From there you will be prompted for the email address of the list owner. Type in "firstname.lastname@example.org". You will then be given the choice to select either Ojo Encino or Alchesay. Once you are looking at the lists (which contain hundreds of titles) you can make your selection of a new, used, or sale copy. After your done and ready to make your purchase you will be asked to confirm that you are buying books for a certain wishlist. Checking those boxes will keep the lists up to date and prevent books from appearing as unsold even after they were purchased. Now all you have to do is enter the mailing addresses, and here they are:
Ojo Encino Day School Librarian
HCR 79 Box 7
Cuba, NM 87013
Alchesay High School
200 Falcon Way
Whiteriver, AZ 85941
PLEASE BE AWARE: If you try to buy a book for Alchesay and you get a message from Powells stating the book has already been purchased for Ojo Encino, THAT IS OKAY. Powells is having some difficulty handling identical books purchased from both lists. It's a system glitch that I'm sure will be rectified in the future. Just go ahead and buy the book and then please send us an email (guyslitwireATgmailDOTcom)or comment here at the site letting us know what you bought. I can manually tag the book as "Received" on the list. I'm so sorry this has been a problem for some of you and appreciate your patience as the book fair winds down.
This book fair will run for two weeks and we invite everyone who buys a book to please comment on our site or send us an email and let us know your first name, where you are from and what you bought so we can run a list of how the Fair is going. I will be running an updated post daily at the top of our site with the information we gather from contributors so we can all see what books are being bought and where everyone is from. We hope this will be a huge success and remind a lot of kids who most of us will never know that we care about them and we hope for them and we wish the very best for them. We are sending them books after all, because that is what we all know has meant so much to so many of us.
Hit the wishlist, buy a book and please, let us know what you think of the Book Fair for Native American teens.
[Top post pic taken from American Youth; all books pictured here can be found on the wishlists. My thoughts on the psychology behind creating these lists can be found here.]