The morning of May 11 saw a flurry of activity in our Midtown Atlanta office as Wiproites came in early or stayed late from their work shifts to stuff backpacks with “Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type,” “Pete the Cat: Too Cool for School,” and other fascinating tomes. The occasion was the reading celebration organized with First Book.
About 50 volunteers from Wipro took turns alongside U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia; state Democratic Sen. Elena Parent, and local Commissioner Nancy Jester to form an assembly line to complete the “backpack build,” filling 500 backpacks with 1,500 books at our office.
Wipro has several initiatives across the country to support public school education through volunteer engagement and other means. One of our strongest partners in this endeavor is First Book, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. First Book aims to make books and educational resources available to programs and schools serving children in need.
The Brockett Elementary School reading celebration in Tucker, Georgia, in May was part of our three-year partnership to distribute more than 200,000 books to children in need across North America. Two years ago, Wiproites joined First Book for another reading celebration with students at Mary M. Bethune Elementary in Fulton County, Georgia. In practice, Wipro’s Good Citizen manifesto is based on the belief that education is the most important driver of socioeconomic change and building a just, equitable and humane society.
The First Book model is great because it allows for various formats of engaging educators, families and community leaders to empower teachers to select the best resources aligned with their curriculum. Offerings include a wide variety of titles to support social and emotional learning, school district objectives, hygiene kits, calculators, flashcards, backpacks, laptops, educational games, art supplies, coats for regions where lower temperatures during the winter months can deter attendance and more.
The following morning, our team met with Venessa Bines-Truitt, principal of Brockett Elementary, who emphasized the need for parents, families, communities and other stakeholders to join hands towards quality public education and student success. “The generosity of the volunteers and agencies are an example of the collaboration needed by all stakeholders to ensure our students are prepared for their bright futures,” she said.
Jennifer LaBell, the elementary school’s academic coach, recalled, “With the funding I was able to order Mo Willems’ Piggie and Elephant series. They are by far the most popular books at the elementary level. Each student received a copy of one of these books to take home. The remaining books ordered will be used to create content related to text sets and to add to teachers’ classroom libraries. I also ordered an outstanding book titled ‘Wonder’ that each teacher will be given a copy of at the start of the school year to use as a mentor text to build classroom community. It was a ton of fun to order all those books! The kids were so excited to get their copies! They haven’t stopped talking about the event!”
The event was organized as part of Brockett Elementary’s summer reading initiative, “Get Georgia Reading,” supported by the Wipro-First Book partnership. The goal was to beat the “summer slide,” meaning the loss of academic skills during the summer months. The school was hoping that equipping each child with books would inspire them to read throughout summer. Research has shown that children who are given access to books over the summer perform 35 to 40 percent better on reading achievement tests than those without access to books. The research also shows book ownership and a print-rich environment are leading indicators of a child’s academic success.
The Wipro team was joined by Democratic state Sen. Steve Henson, Daniela Perry, field director for Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, and Tucker Mayor Frank Auman and his wife Gaye Auman. All the team members sat down with groups of children for a fun and interactive reading session with stories chosen according to the children’s interests and their academic standards. While the kids enjoyed hearing about the adventures of Amelia Bedelia and others, the grown-ups had a great time bringing the characters alive and seeing the big smiles all around. I felt I had made a small difference in a child’s life and felt a deep sense of happiness at being able to share their smiles.
Romit Gupta is general manager, international operations, of Wipro Limited.
For more information and free resources on summer learning, go to the OST HUB.