Thanks to the thoughtfulness of a recent tour visitor, Safe Passage was able to connect with Child Aid, a non-profit organization who graciously donated 1000 age-appropriate books to our library through their Reading for Life program. I recently spoke with Sara El-Sohl, Safe Passage’s library program coordinator about the impact of this gift.

LEK: How has the recent book donation contributed to our reading and library program?

Sara: We received many small-format children’s books, books that are shorter and more accesible for new and beginner readers. This type of book is less intimidating and makes reading fun for our younger students. Now that we have expanded and updated our supply of these books, we may have the opportunity later in the year to offer a book fair for our kids, where we offer books to our families to own and keep at home. For many of our families and children, this will be the first time that they have owned their own books. We also received over 50 math tutoring books which our tutoring program has found extremely useful, as well as many anthologies that are great classroom resources for our teachers.

LEK: Now that we have received this donation, are there still specific categories of books that we need for our library?

Sara: Yes, we still are lacking young adult fiction including classic Latin American literature as well as non-fiction histories and biographies of historical figures in Latin America and around the world. By acquiring these books, our older students (middle school and high school age) will have more opportunities to read for enjoyment as well as learn about their own history and culture.

LEK: I understand that this donation also included a 3-hour training in which you were able to participate.

Sara: Yes, the timing was great for this training because I was in the process of reorganizing the library to make it more accesible for our students. The Child Aid trainers had great tips for making the library space more fun and accesible. Now that we have such a great children’s book collection, we want to make sure our kids use it! I was also able to find out more about incorporating non-fiction reading into library  and reading curriculum, which I intend to use in my classes. Using books about insects, historical figures, and other sources in an engaging way is a great method to increase vocabulary and reading comprehension.

LEK: Do you have a particular story about how a book from this donation has impacted a student or class?

Sara: Yes, I recently used the story “Un Beso de una Mano” (“The Kissing Hand”) for my 1st through 3rd grade reading classes. The story addresses emotions such as loneliness, neglect, empathy, and love. Based on this story, I was able to then lead exercises with the children in which they learned ways to share empathy and caring with each other. I feel so privileged to work with our wonderful students every day, helping them learn to love reading and watching them turn into strong lifelong readers who will contribute to a culture of literacy within their families and communities.

-Leigh Ellen Key (Teams Coordinator) and Sara El-Solh (Librarian)