HOUSTON – March 9, 2018 – For those Spring ISD families most heavily affected by Hurricane Harvey, the focus during the months since the storm has often been on taking care of the most basic necessities – food, clothing and shelter.
But many families lost much more than the essentials, and returning to normal is even harder when cherished or hard-to-replace items are suddenly gone forever. For some, those losses include a cherished book collection.
According to Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson, that’s why members of a statewide group of educators and educational advocates, the Texas Caucus of Black School Board Members (TCBSBM), recently decided put together a donation of books to help students from Ponderosa Elementary School, a campus whose surrounding community was hit especially hard by Harvey.
“We have some special gifts for you from people from across the state who have been thinking about you,” Watson said to the group of specially selected students gathered on Friday afternoon in the Ponderosa school library. “They want you to take them home, and to share them with your families, with your brothers and your sisters. But most importantly, they want you to read them.”
After a brief talk from the superintendent, students were each given a care package of books selected especially for them at their grade level. According to Ponderosa Counselor Jennifer Meehan, 28 students were chosen in all, with each student receiving five books apiece.
“As we’ve come up to different activities in the months since Harvey,” Meehan said, “we’ve been realizing that families are still missing some of these basic items that many of us take for granted – whether it’s decorations to put up at the holidays or a bed to sleep on. Coming up to Spring Break, we realized that some of our students wouldn’t have anything to read.”
Justin Pipkin, a fourth-grader at Ponderosa whose family lost almost all their books in the storm, was especially excited about a book he received about the life of boxer and civil rights activist Muhammad Ali. “I’ve seen movies about him,” Pipkin said, “but I’ve never read a book about him before.”
Another fourth-grade student, Sanaiya Coburn, spoke of her love for chapter books, especially the Junie B. Jones series. “I like to read those books,” Coburn said. “She’s funny and does lots of silly things.” Coburn plans on taking her new books with her over the break when she goes to visit her grandmother, who often reads to her.
Members of the Spring ISD Board of Trustees were instrumental in helping make the book donation possible. They helped make arrangements with TCBSBM to collect donations, and some trustees went even further by purchasing and donating additional books to add to those already collected.
“Having these books to give out today is a good thing,” Meehan said. “We’ve got some families who have been living in hotels for months, or in other kinds of transitional situations. It’s hard on the families, and it affects student performance, too. Everything we can do to help keep the momentum going from what students have been learning in class is a good thing.”
At the Board of Trustees meeting on March 20, some of the young students came to the podium to express their gratitude.
“Thank you so much for giving me those books,” said fourth-grader Victoria Rodriguez. “They meant so much because I lost all of my books, and you helped so much. It’s already hard enough for a kid to lose everything they’ve had.”
Victoria’s mother also had praise for the board: “When I received the letter from the school telling us that we would get books for my kids, it was a blessing because they didn’t have even one book….all the books were gone, they were all lost,” said Cathy Rodriguez. “I am very thankful that we were able to get these books for them….thank you to everyone who was there to assist us and help us to make it through this hard time.”