Sunland Park Academy is an elementary school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. There you will find teacher Bridget Nicholson and her twenty 2nd graders. Most are African-American and many live in low income and high crime communities. Unfortunately, these beautiful kids have to focus more on surviving than reading and learning. Many of Ms. Nicholson's students were not fond of reading, in fact, many read well below their benchmark reading level and some could not read at all. Through mutual friends, Ms. Nicholson was connected with author Ty Allan Jackson and his literacy foundation, Big Head Books. Through a generous donation from Big Head Books and Ark Community Church in Western Massachusetts each student received all three of Ty's books. The kids were instantly excited about reading them partly because the books feature children of color. According to Ms. Nicholson this made all the difference because the kids could see themselves in literature. "The characters look and sound like me" said a 7-year-old whose reading proficiency increased two grade levels since receiving Ty's books. After numerous Skype sessions and encouragement from Ty and partner Eddie Taylor, most of the students are not only reading at or above reading level, but they all have found a new passion for reading. The kids have even formed their own book club! "This would never have happened if the kids did not have this connection with Ty and his books." said Ms. Nicholson.
The goal of this campaign is to have Ty and Eddie visit the students at Sunland Park Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where they will put a book in the hands of every student and hold an "Author Rally" to encourage and inspire the kids to dream big and believe in themselves.
Please invest in the future of our children. No amount is too small.
If (WHEN) we exceed our goal, the remaining funds will go to giving free books to students in neighboring Fort Lauderdale schools.
Below are quotes from Ms. Nicholson.
"Ty Allan Jackson gives that hope through his books. My urban, poor, reluctant readers finally heard their voices in the voices of his heroes. The joy bubbled up, the hope was tangible and my students were asking to read chapter books! Teaching the mechanics of reading is easy, but helping students find their voice, that is one in a million."
"Over half of my second grade students came to me this fall, with kindergarten or lower word levels and comprehension levels based on IRI scores. As we approach the end of the year, only five students remain in that range. 2/3 of the class has risen to third grade in word recognition and on level in comprehension by the same measures. The inspiration of connecting with Ty Allan Jackson who looks like we do, who sounds like we do, and who believes in the power of reading has begun a revolution!"
"Many times students wouldn't have their books because Auntie was still reading it. When was the last time our families wanted to read what we were sending home? And, in fact, read it just because it made them laugh? We do not have enough joy in our classrooms, and Ty Allan Jackson has found a way to write it onto every page bringing delight and books you don't want to put down."
"There are not a lot of books out there that sound like my urban students. We all know the difference it makes when we can hear our own stories come alive in literature, when we can read ourselves in. This is exactly what has happened through Ty's books. My students were dumbfounded! "Hey! I say that!" "He sounds just like me!" Then the giggles started, pretty soon we were all laughing so hard we had tears in our eyes. All of this came from reading."
"If they (the students) couldn't read it themselves, they asked for someone to read it to them. These books are a powerful force and the partnership with Ty Allan Jackson has made it all a powerful experience the students will never forget."
Bridget Nicholson - Second Grade Educator - Sunland Park Academy
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