For the past few months you may have noticed book-drop boxes scattered around Riverside. Girl Scout Troop 657 has been busy collecting books to give to a school in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. Last spring, the Riverside troop, which consists of 19 eighth-graders and one RBHS freshman, was trying to come up with a Silver Award project which is the highest honor a cadet-level Girl Scout can achieve. The troop wanted to do a collective project rather than individual projects.
But what to do?
Some members wanted it connected with literacy, others with breast cancer, while others were more interested in recycling.
In April, the troop got a visit from Riverside resident Carol Devens-Falk, principal of Daniel Corkery School in Little Village, where 95 percent of the students are from low-income families — 81.3 percent Hispanic and 16.3 percent black.
Devens-Falk told the Girl Scouts about her school’s reading program and how many of her students lacked the resources that the Riverside girls took for granted.
“That’s what made us do the project. She talked to us about how unprivileged they are and how they don’t have a lot of books at home or at school, so we just decided it would be a good Silver Award project,” said 13-year-old Bailey Hastings, a member of Girl Scout Troop 657 and an eighth-grader at L.J. Hauser Junior High School.
A trip to Corkery last spring clinched the troop’s decision to collect books for classroom libraries at the school.
“It made me think they could use the books, and if we collected a lot, they could use them and the kids would really enjoy having more books,” said Kaitlin Gaynor, a 14-year-old Troop 567 member.
The troop set a goal of collecting 8,000 books to give to Corkery by the end of the year. They have now collected nearly 6,000 books and are making a final push during the season of giving. For the last two months they have set up book-drops around Riverside at schools, churches, Riverside Town Hall and North Riverside Village Hall, the libraries in Riverside and North Riverside, and a few businesses like Grumpies where people can donate books. Troop members have also gone knocking on doors asking for books to donate.
Troop members will even come to your home to pick up books you wish to donate. Just email books4Corkery@gmail.com and the troop will make arrangements to stop by and pick up your books.
After they collect books, the girls go to a website and “level” them, meaning they look up what level of difficultly the book is on an alphabetical scale of A to Z. They mark that down so each book can be put in an appropriate classroom.
This weekend, Troop 657 will hold a Scholastic Book sale at the Arcade Building from 5 to 9 p.m., Friday night during Riverside’s annual Holiday Stroll and from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, with 55 percent of proceeds going to Corkery so the school can buy new books. Clifford the Big Red Dog is expected make an appearance.
“The community of Corkery School is extremely grateful to the girls of Girl Scout Troop 657 of Riverside,” said Devens-Falk. Building classroom libraries will have an impact on our students for years to come, and I know the service project will have a lasting impact on the Girl Scouts as well.”
On Oct. 25, the troop visited Corkery again to drop off some of the books they had collected and to help Corkery students with reading. They visited classrooms, kindergarten through third grade. Sometimes they read to the students and at other times the students read to them.
“It was really cool to do that,” said 14-year-old Olivia Louthen. “The kids actually sat in my lap. They were in kindergarten, and I would read to them, and every so often they would be super-excited and would read to me.”
Hastings, who started taking Spanish last year as a seventh-grader at Hauser, read a Spanish translation of Cinderella to a class.
“I’m pretty sure they were kind of laughing because they have better pronunciation than me, but it was really fun,” Hastings said.
The scouts also listened to the Corkery students read and helped them when they struggled.
“It was just like a really cool experience to read with them,” Gaynor said. “You could tell it made them happier that they had someone to read with. It felt really good to be able to help them out in that way.”