Book Trust helps students living in poverty fall in love with literacy
The year was 2001, and Adrienne Schatz, then a Fort Collins elementary school student, was struck by how many of her classmates didn’t place orders from the Scholastic Reading Club catalog the students received each month.
At first, she figured they just didn’t share her love of reading. Then she learned that they didn’t order books because their parents couldn’t afford them.
When Adrienne shared this with her parents, Advanced Energy co-founder Doug Schatz and his wife, Jill, they were as dismayed as she was.
They also took action.
Through their Serimus Foundation, the Schatzes wrote checks to enable schools in the Fort Collins area to buy books for about 170 students who could not afford them. By 2006, the Book Trust, a national literacy organization based in Denver that helps kids fall in love with reading, was spun off from the foundation and gained its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. This year, Book Trust, which also has offices in Fort Collins and Maui (where the Schatz family has a home), expects to deliver 1.2 million books to 50,000 youngsters in 19 states.
“When I left the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and started at Book Trust, I was blown away by the statistics,” says Linda Mitchell, its vice president of development. “It was shocking to learn just how large the literacy crisis is across the country, but it was also exciting to know that we do make a difference.”
Book Trust operates on an annual budget of $5.1 million and is funded entirely by donations from corporations, foundations, organizations, individuals and special events including Vino & Libri, a dinner and auction held annually in Denver. In 2011, Amy Friedman became its president and chief executive officer. Prior to joining Book Trust, Friedman taught English as a second language in the Denver Public Schools system and served as chief of staff to the superintendent.
Students at a Book Trust school can order $7 worth of books per month from the Scholastic Reading Club catalog that is distributed to schools across the nation. That, Mitchell says, not only fosters a love of reading, but also teaches valuable skills such as budgeting and math.
“What distinguishes Book Trust,” she says, “is that the children can select whichever books appeal to them,” something she says results in motivated readers. “And motivated readers are the best readers. Books that they choose to read are just that: They’re what a child wants to read, not what he or she has to read.
“The Harry Potter books are always popular, as is ‘Captain Underpants,’ ‘The LEGO Book’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pets.’ One little 6-year-old at the Marie L. Greenwood Academy in Montbello is fascinated by natural disasters, so he orders books about earthquakes and stuff like that.”
Founder Adrienne Schatz remains involved, serving on Book Trust’s national board of directors with a group that includes her mother, Jill, of Fort Collins; former Denver resident Ryta Sondergard, community relations specialist for Sinclair Oil in Wyoming; Jim Hackstaff, a partner at Hackstaff & Snow; and Amy Kolczak, senior associate general counsel for University of Colorado Health. Kolczak also chairs Book Trust’s Northern Colorado board. The Denver regional board is headed by Greg Bellomo, managing partner at Government Performance Solutions Inc.
Ultimately, Mitchell says, “We’d love to serve all 10 million kids in kindergarten through third grade in the United States who are living in poverty.”
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SUPPORT: Book Trust Champions share Book Trust’s mission of inspiring kids’ passion for reading and each month receive three simple missions to complete: educate, participate and advocate. Each Champion can pick one, two or all three missions. For details, contact Kristine at 720.259.8047 or email [email protected]
BOOK TRUST 10: Participants in this program pledge gifts of $10 per month for 10 months. The money enables a Book Trust student to build a personal library of up to 30 books over a school year and empowers young readers to read what they want to read while building a culture of literacy inside and outside the classroom. In addition, the Morgridge Family Foundation matches Book Trust 10 gifts up to $100,000. booktrust.org/donate
VINO & LIBRI: Book Trust’s annual fundraiser is a dinner and auction held every spring at increasingly larger locations. The 2017 event, chaired by Debbie Ward, raised $186,000.