International of Caldwell County began Operation READ (Really Exciting
Adventure and Drama) in the fall of 2009. This idea grew out of
conversation by a group of Altrusans riding home from the District
Conference that year. Because it is so critical for
students to read by the end of the third grade, they came up with the
ideas for this project, and after they presented it to the club, it was
adopted with cooperation and assistance from the Caldwell Early College
High School Students.
month during the school year, Altrusans visit selected schools and
present each third grader with a “gently used” children’s book to keep
for their very own. The Altrusans are assisted in most
schools by students from the Early College High School, who visit once a
month to assist teachers in many ways. They are also good role models to influence the children to love reading and books. Usually
the Altrusan delivering the books visits with the class long enough to
read a story and talk about reading and how books can be lifelong
friends. Often a small treat is given to each child.
The first year of the project, we visited four schools and delivered 130 books each month. Each year the project has grown, and as of, 2013-2014 club year, we have grown to seven schools and 260 students. We expect to deliver more than 2000 books during this school year. We
estimate that over the course of the five years we have been involved
with the project, Altrusa has provided children with close to 9,000
of the books are donated to Altrusa by local community citizens, from
the Caldwell County Friends of the Library, and from churches, book
clubs and other local organizations. Altrusan Ann Miller has a collection box at her shop, Foothills Framing, where books are accepted. Books
which are inappropriate or the wrong reading level, can be exchanged at
a local used book store (CE Books) for credit toward children’s books. We
budget each year to buy a brand new Christmas book for each child. At
Christmas in 2013, two of our Altrusans generously purchased a newly
published Children’s book by a local author, Gretchen Griffith, for each
child at Collettsville Elementary School.
Altrusans who are involved in the project have found it very rewarding. The children and teachers are so appreciative, and it is rewarding to see the children grow and develop. As one of our Altrusa friends who delivers for us says, “Delivering the books is still such a joy to me. When the students see me, their eyes light up. They have big smiles on their faces as they choose their books. I often see the third graders outside of school. Many times I get a hug and they tell their parents I am the ‘book lady.’ What a wonderful way to be remembered!”
special event is the year end Operation READ Celebration that we do at
the end of each school year, where students and teachers express what
the program means to them. The children who attend get to take a book home, and refreshments are enjoyed by all.