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Brookline students raising funds for Dorchester reading program

Posted by Tom Coakley  March 14, 2012 12:36 PM

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Hoping to fill classrooms in a Dorchester elementary school with age-appropriate books, a group of about 20 Brookline High School students are sponsoring a concert Saturday afternoon .,

“We have a $16,000 wish list waiting to be funded,” said Ben Hoff, a BHS Junior and co-director of the Brookline Literacy Partnership .

The Library Development section of the Partnership buys books for classrooms at the Kindergarten through Grade 5 Mather Elementary School in Dorchester, as well as shelves. School librarians from Brookline and student library science volunteers from Simmons College have already tackled a re-organization Mather's school library, Hoff said.

Mather Principal Emily Cox says the program, which includes BHS student tutors once a week and gift books for kids in the upper grades as they head out on vacation, is a boon.

“In the classroom libraries, the majority of books were bought by the teachers out of pocket,” she said. They need “the appropriate levels of books, representative of their cultures and accessible.”

The Mather has 600 students, 45% of whom, Cox said, do not speak English at home. The concert proceeds will fund teacher generated wish-lists for the books their classrooms need, she said.

“We have suffered many budget cuts over the years, and have a high-needs population,” Cox said. “Rich literacy is the key to success.”

But books and literacy materials, which the Partnership also funds, are only part of the picture. According to Lindsey Pearlstein , a BHS junior in the Partnership, about 10-15 club members travel by van and a mom-driven carpool to the Mather every week to coach Mather students in reading from about 3:30-5 pm.

“They run in 100 percent independently,” Cox said. She occasionally has a peek in the classroom—where about 15-20 kids facing reading challenges work with the Brookline kids, she said.

“They instill excitement about learning,” Cox said. “They are, of course, way cooler than adults.”

Pearlstein, who is the Partnership's head of tutoring , said that Brookline and Mather kids read aloud to each other, tackle homework, play games and talk about school.

“We talk about where we are thinking of going to college—to sort of get that college idea planted,” she said.

The program started at the Emerson School—closed last year in a round of belt-tightening—when Sarah Plovnick of BHS, now a freshman in college, expanded her bat mitzvah project by inviting two friends to form the partnership. The after-school club grew, and the concert—the IntelliJam became a way to fund the book drive.

The admission price this year is $5 for students and $10 adults . The money from admissions covers the cost of entertainment, which this year is Latin band Ten Tumbao and singer-songwriter Molly Mehsack and the buses to transport the school's families from Boston but not much else.

Business sponsorships, garnered with a student-drafted direct-mail letter and a lot of footwork around Brookline's shops and offices, bring in y $10,000 .

This is the third annual concert, Hoff said, and over the past two years, the Partnership has raised $25,000 and collected over 5,000 books .

The concert is “our major fundraiser,” Hoff said. The students book professional groups and invite Mather families to come, even renting a school bus to bring them the 20-minute drive in to Brookline. This and the trips to Dorchester, Hoff said, connect the two communities—as the concert flier puts it “book by book.”

To buy tickets, get details, or make a donation, visit www.brooklineliteracypartnership.com

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