A novel way to help the hungry | PostIndependent.com

A novel way to help the hungry

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson Eddie Dapia, 9, reads to her fourth-grade teacher Karen Hall during reading time last week at Glenwood Springs Elementary School. Hall organized the "Read to Feed" program.

At Glenwood Springs Elementary School, Harry Potter may be helping to end poverty. Or at least that’s the goal of the kids who are reading Harry Potter and other books as part of Heifer International’s Read to Feed Program.The idea is simple: Kids read books for points, which accumulate depending on the difficulty of the book to earn money based on how much the students’ sponsors in the community want to give. The money the kids raise by reading books is used to purchase livestock – often cows, but also chickens, water buffaloes, llamas and others – that will provide food or wool for an impoverished family that sought help from Heifer International. Families receiving help are scattered across the globe, including some Hurricane Katrina victims. GSES students set reading goals at the beginning of February, and once students’ points are tallied this week, those who have met their goals are rewarded with a free movie at the Springs Theater.

Students get to choose what animal they will buy with the money they’ve raised, and which they will make vote on next week. But what motivates many students to read isn’t the movie treat at the beginning of March, it’s that their reading helps people in a different country live better, said fourth-grade teacher Karen Hall, who is helping to spearhead Read to Feed at GSES. “We wanted to give kids an opportunity to make a difference,” said parent Kacey Beckler, who encouraged the school to participate in Read to Feed two years ago. Kids, she said, “they just embrace it.”Many of Hall’s students, who say they’ve read more over the last month because of the program, agree. Fourth-grader Jenny Trejo is reading “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” which will net her 44 points because the book is very long and more difficult to read than many of her peers’ books, some of which earn only two points. “I enjoy it because I get to read a lot, and also I get to help people by doing it,” she said.

“I put more effort into it because I’m helping people.”So far, Trejo has earned 201 points. Thomas Bartlomiejczuk, one of Trejo’s classmates, has earned 62 points by reading books in the “Hank the Cowdog” series. He said he reads “a lot more” now that he and his classmates are helping “stop poverty in Africa or some other poor countries.”Hall’s students were able to see some results of the work their reading did in Central America after Hall flew to Honduras with Heifer International last year to see how families were surviving who had received animals through the Read to Feed program. Hall returned with a slideshow for her students to see.

“It’s as simple as giving a gift of an animal that brings people from poverty to life,” she said. But while teachers rave the program is encouraging kids to read, fourth-grader Zane Heald summed up the virtues of the program pretty well. “It’s cool you can read to help save people’s lives,” he said. Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520bmagill@postindependent.com

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