Author boosts book give-away for thousands in hurricane-hit Houston

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How do you turn your students into readers if you don’t have books?

That’s a question author Alane Adams asked when she met with Houston Federation of Teachers members to discuss her efforts through the Rise Up Foundation. The organization, which she founded, supports literacy efforts in schools serving low-income students, especially those affected by disasters.

Houston First Book event

“Natural disasters cause not only financial devastation to communities but also take a toll on the emotional well-being of their youngest citizens,” says Adams. “The ability to put new books into the hands of children affected by these disasters is a way to help them return to a sense of normalcy and remind them that there is still magic in the world.”

Adams not only asked the question, but is doing something about it. Through the Rise Up Foundation, Adams donated more than 8,000 of her own books to elementary and middle school students in Houston schools that were hit particularly hard by Hurricane Harvey. She held 13 school assemblies to get the students excited about reading, talk to them about what it takes to write books, and hand out books for their home libraries. Students flocked to her afterward to sign their books or ask additional questions about being an author.

“I was so honored to have spent the past week visiting with thousands of students in Houston and their amazing teachers, who unanimously supported my message that reading is a superpower,” says Adams.

In addition, the Rise Up Foundation donated $100,000 to First Book, most of which will be distributed directly to Houston educators registered with First Book in the form of First Book Marketplace credits, which they can use to choose specific books for classroom reading collections. First Book is also using part of the Rise Up Foundation funding to conduct disaster recovery research, including focus groups with educators to better understand the connection between disaster relief, books, reading, and social and emotional learning. 

Author Alane Adams with students

“What is so smart and effective about Alane Adams’ generous gift is that she is putting the choice of the books directly into the hands of classroom teachers and school librarians to pick books that best meet our students’ needs and support high-quality teaching and learning in Houston public schools,” says Zeph Capo, Houston Federation of Teachers president.

This isn’t the first time Adams has reached out to schools in need. She has visited more than 100 schools this year alone speaking to students, supporting educators and giving away her books. Adams has gone to schools on Native American reservations and to schools in remote rural areas that don’t often have authors willing to take the time and effort to speak to students in person. Earlier this year, Adams distributed books to schools in Lake County, Calif., where communities were devastated by the Mendocino Complex Fire.

Unfortunately, many schools—not just those impacted by natural disasters like hurricanes or fires—don’t have enough books in their classrooms or libraries to inspire a love of reading. That is why the AFT partnered with First Book more than seven years ago to “fund our future”
and create a pipeline of books. The effort also distributes school supplies and basic-needs items to support educators and their students. Any educator in a Title I school or a healthcare practitioner or public employee who works in programs serving 70 percent or more low-income families, can register with First Book for access to low-cost and in some cases free books and supplies.

The AFT strives to work with partners like Alane Adams and the Rise Up Foundation to give the gift of reading and help every student become a super reader.

[Leslie Getzinger]