Everyone, including our nation’s public school systems, has experienced hardships related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When school districts in Athens County first transitioned to remote learning last spring, it created a variety of challenges for educators working in the county’s school system. Thankfully, the Hocking Athens Perry Community Action (HAPCAP) was there to help make life a bit easier through a donation of approximately 1,700 books to Ohio University’s Kids on Campus program.
Books were donated to The Plains, Alexander, Miller-Millcreek, Amesville, Coolville, Federal Hocking and Nelsonville city school districts; teachers within each district were provided with the opportunity to select books for their classrooms, and the rest were gifted to area residents.
Jennifer Moore, program coordinator for OHIO’s Kids on Campus, worked with Liz Hoisington, a first-grade teacher at The Plains Elementary school to ensure the hundreds of donated books got into the homes and classrooms of her students.
“We want books in hand for kids to become readers, and this is the only way we can really do it,” Hoisington said. “Particularly with the pandemic and being online, getting books in their hands has been a little tricky.”
Both Hoisington and Moore stressed the importance of young students being provided with opportunities to read as much as possible.
They also noted that the HAPCAP donation provided essential learning material during the district’s remote learning period and will continue to bring value as the Athens City School District continues its phased return to the classroom.
Another bonus of the donation is that students are now able to select from numerous titles that appeal to their personal interests.
"[The books] available were everything from preschool to adult. These aren’t old books your grandma read, these are new books the kids will be interested in,” Moore said. “I have Spiderman Books, Star Wars books and Groot books from Guardian of the Galaxy books. Any modern books we have for our kids now.”
Hoisington added that, aside from pop-culture books, current and respected modern literature was also made available. Athens students are being given access to free books that could cost them more than $30 online. She claimed that some of the books donated retail at $100.
Another focus of Kids on Campus is to provide social and emotional learning opportunities – two important developmental items that can be difficult to teach in the midst of a pandemic. Thankfully, the HAPCAP donation has helped on this front as well.
Moore said that coloring books, craft books, books written from multicultural perspectives, and even books written using foreign languages, were made available. Aside from proper representation, this selection exposes students to diverse perspectives and allows for a well-rounded educational experience outside the classroom.
In addition to the student-focused benefits, Hoisington expressed how much the HAPCAP donation has helped teachers in the COVID-19 era. The donation has also made Hoisington’s goal of “making every kid in The Plains a reader” even more achievable.
“There’s nothing like holding a book,” Hoisington said. “Just having a physical book means a lot to the kids… and we want them to grow into readers.”