Marist Students Organize Book Drive to Promote Literacy

On Friday, December 16, several Marist School Modern and Classical Languages Department teachers, along with student-leaders from the French, Spanish, and German classes, traveled to Duluth, Georgia to deliver nearly 1,000 books to first and second graders at Berkeley Lake Elementary School.
While visiting, Marist students spent time with the younger students discussing their favorite books and engaging in conversation about the importance of reading. This time spent together was a highly anticipated component of the growing relationship between the students that began earlier in the school year when Marist students wrote letters in English and Spanish to Berkeley Lake students. The first and second graders will write thank-you letters to their new Marist friends after the holidays.

The relationship between the two schools began five years ago when Mrs. Erica Buchanan, Marist School Spanish teacher and Spanish Club co-moderator, partnered with Molly Speese, Berkeley Lake Elementary second grade teacher, by donating to her classroom library during the Christmas holiday. Hoping to begin a relationship between the students, Buchanan instructed her Spanish students to write letters to Speese’s students that emphasized the fun and importance of reading at an early age. Last year, the relationship between the two classrooms blossomed as the Marist  Modern and Classical Languages Department organized book donations for all of Berkeley Lake’s second grade classrooms. This year, they also took on the entire first grade.

“Our students enjoy working with elementary school children, especially around the holidays, because it gives them a sense of passing on the spirit of the season and making a difference,” Mrs. Buchanan shared. “What is fun about the book drive is that it gives the older kids and younger kids a chance to talk about reading and reflect on the books that they read as children and the traditions their families used to foster literacy.”

Many of Speese’s elementary students speak Spanish as their first language and greatly appreciate getting special letters from older students written in Spanish. Connecting with older students who can relate to, communicate with, and inspire a love of reading in them is a meaningful and lasting experience for the children, according to their teacher.

The Berkeley Lake first and second grade teachers interviewed their students ahead of the book drive to find out their favorite books in hopes of getting them at least one of those listed. “There were so many high school students who wanted to participate that we didn’t have enough students,” Speese said. She noted that the Marist students surprised the children with gifting the top three favorite books that each student listed on their wish list. “There are extra books being donated to the teacher’s personal classroom library.”

On book delivery day, Marist students brought the books wrapped in holiday wrapping paper and joined the children in a circle to open the packages at the same time. The joy of the children’s reactions to receiving their wish-list books was especially heartwarming to Marist sophomore Becca Jose ’25, who attended the event as co-vice president of Marist’s Spanish Club.

“As a little kid, reading does not seem like a fun activity to do, but we make it fun for them and give lots of encouragement,” Jose said. “Reading can really help these kids excel in school and everyday life. By giving them books as gifts in elementary school, it will give them the opportunity to start at a young age. That is why I love this project.”

Marist School’s Modern and Classical Languages Department intends to continue the year-after-year growth of the holiday-season book drive as well as the letter exchange between students, ensuring an early love of reading and a bond between two schools rooted in tradition and friendship.

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Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-1899
(770) 457-7201
An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers