FD children share The Joy of Reading

Fort Dodge second-graders were introduced in November to The Joy of Reading, the initiative started by the Emily Joy Averill Foundation to inspire a love for reading.

“(Emily) was a helper in a second-grade classroom,” Katie Averill, Emily Averill’s mother, said, “and so we chose to give back and promote literacy in our community by giving back to all second-graders in Fort Dodge.”

Emily Joy Averill was killed in a car accident in June 2011. Her legacy continues, though. Second-graders at Cooper Elementary were so inspired by the Joy of Reading they acted to share Averill’s and their love of reading with their kindergarten peers.

The second-graders set a goal of raising $75 to buy new books to give to the kindergartners, and raised $150.

“Our second-graders really took the responsibility to pay it forward with the Joy of Reading,” Bruce Hartley, principal, said. “They came up with the idea of selling little snack bags to the other kids in the school. They sold little quarter and 50-cent bags of snacks that the parents had provided.”

While some parents helped to keep track of the money, the kids did the work, Hartley said, selling the snacks in the mornings and after school. Tuesday, the second-graders gave the books to the kindergartners in an assembly, reading first to their younger schoolmates before returning to class.

Hartley said he is proud of his students’ love for literacy.

“If second-graders can help the kindergartners to catch on with that joy of reading and get started at a young age, it’s just going to help their reading to start with and as they go up,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll increase their skills much quicker.”

This is the first time Joy of Reading has appeared in Fort Dodge schools since its debut in November. The young students were excited for the return, Katie Averill said.

“The kids all wanted to share with us what they’ve learned and pass on the joy of learning,” she said. “Here at Cooper it was just an amazing effort that they did to give back to the kindergartners and pass on the joy and really promote literacy and giving back.”

The second-graders responded positively to receiving books in November and actively reading, Averill said.

“They’ve just been wonderful,” she said. “They recognized me, they talked about reading, they wanted to tell me how much they’ve been reading.”

The students even remembered their bobby pins.

“We showed the kids a bobby pin, and said that was a sign from Emily and that means you should be reading,” Averill said. “Several of the kids came up to me and said they’ve been finding bobby pins and they’re taking it to heart that that means they should be reading more. It’s real rewarding to see that come back around. They really understand what we were trying to. That’s amazing to have second-graders really get what we’re trying to do, promote literacy.”

Witnessing the effort by Cooper’s second-graders to spread literacy was even more heartening, Averill said.

“I think it’s really a compliment to the second grade educators here that they moved this forward,” she said. “It was the second-graders’ idea and they worked on this. For them to turn this in the direction of giving back and promoting literacy with the kindergartners is really just amazing.”

Joy of Reading will continue to focus on Fort Dodge’s 372 second-graders. Averill plans to follow the students as they go into third grade and provide books again to the next school years’ second grade students. Averill also plans to return to the schools soon.

“We’re going to see them again this spring and talk to them about how important it is to read over the summer,” she said. “There’s a lot of statistics about children reading over the summer, they take a break a lot of times. We’re going to do something for the second-graders and help them to remember to read.”

Averill feels that she is accomplishing what she had set out to do, to honor her daughter.

“Absolutely, I know Emily is shining down on us and proud of the efforts we are making in her legacy,” she said, “remembering her in a positive way, with joy.”