by Zoe Musselman
In early September, Chestnut Hill College alumna Jennifer Friel Papalitskas ’15, who majored in early childhood education as a student, undertook a book project with her kindergarten students at Holy Innocents Catholic School in Philadelphia, a venture that helped create a connection between the children and the community.
The project encouraged community members to send in books from their childhood that had an impact on them, with each book containing an inspiring message written by the sender. The goal, among others, was to show the young students they had the support of the community. And although her students are not yet able to read, Papalitskas is hopeful that by the end of the year they will be able to read the books on their own.
Papalitskas recently spoke to the College about the project and how excited her students were to receive the books.
CHC: How did the book project originate?
JFP: A Facebook friend shared that she was doing it with her class because she heard of it from a friend. Some of my students don’t have books at home so I thought this would be a great project to do with them.
How did your students react after receiving the books?
They were so excited! It was like Christmas morning. The people who donated wrote little notes inside the books for them to read. Even though they can’t read yet, they were thrilled to see that someone wrote them a special note.
How did the community respond to the project?
I was shocked that so many people offered to donate. Many people sent extra books for me to keep in my classroom library. The children love this. We get to read them together throughout the year.
The parents of my students were very grateful. They never heard of this being done before so they were really appreciative, especially when they were told that they get to keep the books.
What impact did this have on your students?
My students love to listen to stories. We read many different types of books throughout the year. I can only hope that the children learn to love reading as much as I do and create their own library one day. Luckily they all have a book to start with.
Do you plan on making this project a yearly tradition?
I was not sure how successful this project was going to be, but since it went so great, I will definitely try it again next year. I am also thinking about trying this a second time at the end of the year. That way people can write end-of-the-year notes to the children, and by that time, they will be able to read the books themselves.