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Smith Middle School AVID Students Discover Books to Go

Eric Zeigler, AVID teacher at Smith Middle School, experienced an “Aha” moment during the final week of school in June. “Right before my eighth grade class was headed to their graduation rehearsal, one of my students shared with me that none of her teachers had ever given her a book. Several others expressed the same sentiment. So I wasn't about to begin another school year without giving away some books. But how?”

Zeigler knew about the non-profit Book Harvest and its impact on student literacy in elementary schools across the district and the Triangle, but he wasn’t aware of Books to Go, the distribution program aimed at middle and high school students. Then he learned about the August 24 giveaway, one of three each year, and he drove a truck over to Durham to load up for his AVID students. This year’s August distribution served 36 schools from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Orange County and Durham Public Schools, as well as other local youth-focused organizations. During a twelve hour period, 81 educators selected more than 8,000 free books to take back to their students.

Zeigler's AVID and Books to GoAmy Franks, education partnerships manager at Book Harvest, said, “The idea here is to encourage a love of reading while removing the barrier of lack of access to books and book ownership for middle and high school students in our area.” Many of the educators gathered a broad array of books, but Zeigler had the advantage of selecting for a relatively small group of students, many of whom he taught last year and earlier. He knows their tastes and areas of interest. He took his time browsing through the vast collection, and with the help of Franks, he chose 445 books to use for Literature Circles, and “just to enjoy.”

On Wednesday, August 29, the second day of school, Franks came to Smith to meet some of Zeigler’s students, and she watched as they chose their books. A few were already at their desks writing thank-you notes to Book Harvest. “I really enjoyed visiting Mr. Zeigler's class and seeing the students select from the books he so carefully curated for them when he attended Books to Go. It was a wonderful experience!”

The students chose some of the predictable, hugely popular novels like the Percy Jackson and Warrior Cats series, in addition to classics like To Kill a Mockingbird. They chose books on Abraham Lincoln and other history texts. There were books by African-American and Hispanic authors, a few by or about Native Americans. Zeigler worked hard to make sure the books represented the backgrounds and voices of his own students.

Zeigler couldn’t hide his delight as he told the story of Amaris Bryant, one of his eighth grade students. “Amaris said to several other classmates, when selecting the book Little Women, ‘This is one of the things I asked for for Christmas, now, I finally have it.’"

“Mr. Zeigler is a force, and it was a pleasure to visit his class,” said Franks.