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Becoming Role Models to Help Second-graders Read


After reading a Dr. Seuss book to second-graders, Crossroads Alternative High School junior Jimel Davis opened the lid of a cardboard box sitting next to him.

“Who’s wondering what’s in this box?” he asked.

Students chanted, “Books! Books! Books! Books!”

Jimel and junior Starsky Cook began lifting up children’s books, one for each student to keep. It was delivery day for Crossroads’ Literacy for Life book collection program. Students in the high school’s leadership class collect books from throughout the community to give to children in 21 classrooms at Bowen, Townline and Meadowlawn elementary schools and a sister school, Pine Trails Elementary School, in Allegan Public Schools.

They tied the event in with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, wearing Cat-in-the-Hat hats and ears and reading to students. Before leaving, Starsky offered some advice to the second-graders.

“Read for at least 30 minutes a day,” he said. “Ask your parents to bring you to the library if you don’t have a lot of books at home. If you have trouble reading, ask for help.”

Jimel Davis reads to Bowen students
Jimel Davis reads to Bowen students

The Gift of Literacy

This year, the annual book drive resulted in a collection of more than 700 books to be donated. Students started the program six years ago after identifying a need at a youth service retreat.

“Being in alternative ed., we see a lot of kids drop out of school because they have trouble reading,” said Crossroads leadership teacher Janet Sall. “If we could nip that in the bud early on we might have a greater impact.”

After the delivery, Bowen Elementary School second-grader Isaiah Hill sat down at his desk with his new book featuring cartoon characters Phineas and Ferb. “It was nice of them because they are helping us read better,” Isaiah said of the Crossroads students.

Each year, every student in leadership class contributes to the project. Students write a letter and create fliers to begin collecting again. They sort and box books, take photos and create videos, and send out certificates of appreciation to donors. They are also painting and donating five chairs to the elementary schools.

“They each have an individual talent. It takes all of them to make everything work,” Sall said.

Alexis Sell said she loves to see children’s happiness when they receive books
Alexis Sell said she loves to see children’s happiness when they receive books

Crossroads student Alexis Sell read to elementary students. She said she loves participating.

“I like kids,” Alexis said. “In general, just seeing them happy is a good feeling. Kids are oblivious to the bad things, so it’s nice to see them embrace something like this and let it have such an effect on them. It’s a beautiful thing, something as small as a book.”

“It’s so cool to be considered a role model. Little kids are always so excited to see high schoolers,” added Crossroads student Madi Austin.

Bowen second-grade teacher Joe Dykstra said receiving the books re-energizes his students.

“It’s great for my students to see older kids they look up to excited about books,” he said.

Crossroads leadership students also annually donate items to charities during the holiday season by collecting items for personal care packages.

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Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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