Watson Chronicle


Programs for P-12 Students

Team First Book, NHHS Ninth Graders Engage Virgo Students in Reading

Sunday, April 07, 2019

On March 27, Diane Blaschak and Linda Thomas, members of Team First Book of New Hanover County, and 15 students enrolled in New Hanover High School’s ninth grade Bridge Program visited D.C. Virgo, where they helped middle school students select books to keep and read at home.

Team First Book, part of the national nonprofit First Book, coordinated the program in partnership with Virgo media specialist Mike Webb and NHHS teacher Elizabeth Felts. The Women’s Impact Network provided grant funding for the project.

Webb partnered with Blaschak to purchase books through the national First Book Marketplace based on teacher recommendations and student suggestions. With direction from Felts, NHHS ninth graders organized the books by genre, selected their favorites and designed tri-fold displays to engage Virgo middle school students in reading.

On the day of the event, temperatures in Wilmington hovered in the mid-thirties and the bus scheduled to bring NHHS students to Virgo didn’t arrive, but Felts and the ninth graders were determined to see their community service project through. Together, they walked the one and a half miles from New Hanover High School to Virgo to join Blaschak, Thomas and Webb to promote reading at the school.

Team First Book has served New Hanover County for the past 12 years, distributing more than 44,000 books through elementary schools, pre-K programs and community organizations. The project at D.C. Virgo is their first K-8 “whole school” project.

“Our mission is to make sure students have books to read at home,” Blaschak said. “An earlier project for children in sixth grade led us to conclude that by this age, many students are less than enthusiastic about reading. We hope that by serving the whole school, we will generate enthusiasm among faculty and administration that will filter down to students. In planning the project, we also hoped that the high school volunteers would serve as role models during distribution day, helping us to encourage middle school students to read beyond school requirements.”

“We really appreciate the support from Team First Book, the Women’s Impact Network and New Hanover High School,” Webb said. “The ninth graders did a great job engaging our students. Many are former Virgo students themselves, so it was almost like a reunion. They really made an impact.”

Team First Book will return to Virgo in April to distribute books to students in kindergarten through third grade. With funding from the WIN grant, they will also introduce a “whole school” book project at Blair Elementary School this spring.

View more photos on the DCVPA Facebook page >