HONORABLE MENTIONS – 2016 Freedom Through Literacy Award

Ms. Heidi AbiNader, “Sharpsville Middle School Reads”
Sharpsville, PA

Heidi Abi Nader could be described as one of those teachers who goes above and beyond for her students, and nowhere is this more apparent than her project Sharpsville Middle School Reads.  When the idea of bringing author Elio Schrefer floated around the halls of Sharpsville Middle School, Heidi caught it and ran.  Her program allowed for every student to own a copy of Schrefer’s book Endangered, while Heidi organized weekly contests, daily quizzes, and discussions to engage the entire school with the book for six weeks until the author himself arrived to give presentations. Her commitment to literacy is sure to become a legacy at Sharpsville.

Ms. Julia Dweck, “Musical Mythology”
Macungie, PA

It might seems strange to think that building a harp and developing literacy would be connected but Julia Dweck’s Musical Mythology project does just that.  With the help of the Fireside harp kit, Dweck’s students read and discuss Greek mythology and The Lightning Thief, choose a god upon they base an ode, and culminate their knowledge and creativity in a performance using the harp they built together as a class.  Believing that books activate senses beyond the visual, Julia invites students to experience their tactile and audio aspects to inspire a love of reading.

Ms. Helen Ferguson, “We Care, We Share, Books for Foose”
Hummelstown, PA

Helen Ferguson’s We Care, We Share, Books for Foose donates 4,000 books each year to classrooms at Foose Elementary School in Harrisburg. Helen and other volunteers visit 26 different classrooms 5 times a year, bringing a Santa-like bag of books for the students, and explain to them how a book is made and, of course read out load with enthusiasm and energy. Students then get to select their very own book from the bag to bring home.  For a school whose students rarely have he means to go to the public library and whose own library’s funds were significantly cut, the We Care, We Share program really does feel like Christmas.

Ms. Sydelle Pearl,  “Storypearls”
Pittsburgh, PA

Writer Sydelle Pearl remarked that the literacy programs she had looked into didn’t involve the author as much as she liked, so she set out to create her own to inspire children to love reading. Since 2012, Sydelle and her Storypearls program have visited several schools, homeless shelters and transitional housing agencies to enlighten children about the process of writing a story and how stories connect to one another, therefore engaging them in literature in new and exciting ways. One second grader at Saint Rosalia Academy, after Sydelle’s workshop, exclaimed, “Today is the best day of my life!”

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