When Rotarian Derrill Painter viewed the award-winning video, “Eradicating Illiteracy” he was inspired to help the students in the North Shore areas. Sheila Armstrong, a Rotarian-plus Chair of Houston Team First Book and Producer of the video, plus Jon King of Sharpstown Rotary, presented the video at a Rotary District Membership Meeting.
Immediately Derrill saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children in the North Shore Rotary’s service area. “Our club approved $2,500 to purchase books for service projects at Cloverleaf and Dezavala Elementary Schools. Children are our future and one of Rotary International’s areas of focus is literacy worldwide. The ability to read is the basis of all learning, so making books available to a child is the most wonderful gift that we could ever bestow upon them,” said Derrill.
Jon King, a retired fire fighter of 37 years knows: “Commitment, Courage and Compassion” which is the motto of the Houston Fire Department.
Jon King says, “I grew up in the East-end, spent my whole career there. I have worked with charities my whole life. If a retired person wants to have a great retirement, they need to give back and volunteer to a charity that touches their heart. We need to raise educated children and it is a great reward to watch how fast these children learn to teach others to read. Once they learn the joy of teaching others, they will become a teacher for the rest of their lives, no matter what profession they choose.”
“I had polio when I was 7. The doctors wanted to put me into Hedgecroft Hospital. My father told the doctors: ‘No, too many patients are dying in their iron lungs. We will take her home and take care of her.’ My father told me that I would wear braces and that this time was great because now I could become a great reader. The love of reading seed was planted and has flourished ever since being a reading teacher, principal and entrepreneur and best-selling author. It is up to us to help ‘our’ children because they all are meant for great things,” said Sheila.
When the time came to distribute books to Cloverleaf’s students, the young students walked in, sat down and started talking. Principal Lee Brown, walked in and with a gentle clearing of his throat, silence was instant.
All students who receive brand new books from Houston Team First Book are asked to say this pledge:
“Every morning and evening when I finish brushing my teeth, I put my right hand over my heart, look in the mirror and say out loud: I am smart, I am important, I read to others and I teach others to read, I promise!!!”
For the younger students this is spoken in their playground voice!
One second grade boy was asked why does he want to become a good reader. His reply: “I am a good reader because I am going to become a heart doctor and help people feel good. When they feel good they will do good things.”
Another boy said: “I know how to be a good reader. I promised to teach others to read so I am going to teach my one year old sister how to read. She is very smart. I will teach her the sound of a ‘c’ for cat and help her until she learns the word ‘cat’!”
The students walked into the gym at DeZavala to the beat of “foot dancing” music, excited and eager. The students repeated their pledge and lined up to receive their books. Videos were being taken to record the memorable moments. The Principal came in to speak with the students and then Superintendent Greg Ollis walked in with a big smile and started handing out books to the thrilled students.
“Seeing the excitement and joy in the eyes of our students when they received the books was truly a heartwarming experience. I want to thank Ms. Sheila Armstrong and everyone who was involved from Houston Team First Book and Rotarians from other Rotary Clubs for providing these wonderful gifts for our DeZavala Elementary students. I would also like to recognize Mr. Derrill Painter and the North Shore Rotarians for their sponsorship and commitment to the Channelview community and our CISD students,” was the comment of Greg Ollis, Channelview Independent School District Superintendent.
“Receiving the grant that allowed all of my students to take home two books meant the world to me! From experience, I know what it is like to live in a household where something as small as a book could not be afforded. This grant is not only allowing my students an opportunity to read at home but it is giving them the opportunity to build a love for reading!”
Ms. Barrientos, First Grade Teacher, the Channelview Independent School District:
“The grant from North Shore Rotary and Houston Team First Book has been an amazing injection of books for our school! The students in my class are very enthusiastic with their books specially because they are in Spanish, so they can enjoy them completely. This is the seed of many individual libraries in their houses, to enjoy and to share with their siblings and other relatives and friends. To our school, it is the continuum of our endless labor of teaching a variety of genres that is mostly out of the reach of many families. I would like to say thank you to these two noble organizations for their labor of love towards our community. We are in need of more of these events, to encourage teachers, students, and parents to join forces to improve the literacy here in Channelview.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you again.” said Luz Crane, First Grade Bilingual Teacher DeZavala Elementary School.
“We are BOLD, not for ourselves, but for our children,” says Sheila Armstrong.