When third-grade teacher Kathy Schlief started a school-wide children's book drive at Forest Hill School five years ago, she expected the 600 students to donate 600 books.
Instead, the student body rounded up 2,000 books, from old Dr. Seuss classics to popular series. The number has stayed consistent through this year, when the school hosted its fifth annual drive to benefit the local Next Door Solutions shelter, which provides a safe haven for women who have been victims of domestic violence, and their children.
While all of the school’s 600 students participate in the drive, Schlief’s class is in charge of counting all the books in her classroom, and bagging them to be taken to the shelter. At the completion of this year’s drive in February, the books filled three large SUVs.
“The kids completely look forward to it,” said Schlief, pointing out its a challenge for them to figure out where to put the books between a labyrinth of computers, desks, and equipment. “They’ve now seen the drive since they were in kindergarten.”
Next Door Solutions has a library for the books, but also allows children to take books with them when they leave. “It gives them a sense of ownership,” said Schlief, stressing the need to continue donating books. Forest Hill is currently the only school that hosts a drive for Next Door Solutions.
The children also collected everyday items for the women and children at the shelter, such as diapers and personal hygiene products.
“The way we describe the situation [at Next Step] to students,” said Schlief, “is ‘Imagine leaving home in the middle of the night with only the clothes on your back.’”