Editor’s Note: Amanda McNary is a third-grade teacher at Alta Vista Elementary School and a new Suncoast Campaign for Grade-level Reading (SCGLR) Engagement Team Member. She volunteered her time with SCGLR to prepare Kindergarten Readiness Bags that are being distributed to all elementary schools in Sarasota and DeSoto counties.
Family, education, and travel are three of my passions in life. Who knew it was possible to experience all three while volunteering for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading? My yoga sister, Heather Koester, contacted me recently and asked if I would be interested in helping the campaign gather, sort, and pack some awesome materials for Sarasota County Schools’ Kindergarten Round-Ups:
As a third grade teacher at Alta Vista Elementary, I know first hand how important it is that all students are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. I couldn’t resist her invitation, knowing how much of an impact these bags are going to have in our children’s success in school and life. This volunteer opportunity fulfilled one of my passions, education, and I decided to take my son Ethan with me, which satisfied another one of my passions, family.
We arrived and were fed delicious and mouth watering food from a local favorite, Nancy’s B-B-Q, and Nancy herself was there volunteering! My son and I walked in and were warmly greeted by the friendly force of fellow volunteers and SCGLR consultants. We ate, talked, and shared our names and our favorite books growing up. Some of them included Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Little Prince, any of Dr. Seuss’ work, and my own personal favorite, Watership Down. This moment made me think about when my children were small. Even before my first child was born, I joined a book club and started receiving books to share with him at an early age. As an educator, I knew how important it was that my children were surrounded by books as soon as they were born, to develop a love for reading and set them on the right path to academic success. Every night, I tucked in Ethan with Where the Wild Things Are. When we volunteered with to prepare 3,400 Kindergarten Readiness Bags, he recalled his favorite book growing up, Charlotte’s Web.
This unique and rewarding night would also fulfill my third passion, travel. How did my son and I travel together? We met wonderful volunteers, now neighbors, coming together with the common goal of empowering students through reading. Ethan and I stuffed Josh the Baby Otter, a book about Water Safety & Awareness, into the bright, yellow, totes. At our table sat one young woman from India, another from England, and a third one from Spain! We enjoyed learning about their homelands, cultures, and perspectives. That night made me stop and think about how truly blessed we are to have people from our community step up to brighten our children’s future through literacy.