Education honor society buys 500 books for kids

School principal likens visit to ‘winning the lottery’

The Washington University in St. Louis chapter of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP), the international honor society in education, recently presented a book to every child in Northview Elementary School as part of a literacy service project: “Expanding Minds Through Music and Reading.”

The 12-member honor society comprising undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Education in Arts & Sciences purchased more than 500 books — enough to give a book to every student and provide gift baskets containing five books to all 24 teachers.

Northview Elementary, which serves children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grades, is in the Jennings School District.

Finding a book that fits

Each child had the opportunity to choose a special book in advance. On delivery day, the children received their selections, with their names inscribed on nameplates.

“That’s the key thing,” says Brenda F. Pierce, KDP counselor and field placement specialist in WUSTL’s Department of Education. “The best way to get children to read is to find books that interest them. Working with the school, we developed a list of books and the children made their selections.

“Each book was inscribed with ‘A gift from Kappa Delta Pi.’ We hope they remember us and that, someday, they’ll be eligible to join our honor society.”

The visit didn’t end with the distribution. WUSTL students spent the day at the school March 23, reading to the children and leading them in fun activities.

Society President David J. Finkelstein and Secretary Matthew G. Tuths, both graduate students, wrote a song for the children, containing verses for each grade level. WUSTL students helped teach the verses; the kids invented their own dance moves. On a return visit, the honor society plans to combine all the verses into one production, videotape it and present a DVD to each teacher.

Kappa Delta Pi members penned the lyrics, but the children at Northview Elementary invented their own dance moves. All of the elementary students had a chance to select their own special book.

Northview Elementary Principal Tim Dutton likened the experience to “winning the lottery.”

“They (the WUSTL students) did a one-day invasion that infused their excitement, creativity and love for learning and reading into Northview Elementary. Our students are still talking about their visit and are reading the books they gave to them and the books they donated to their classrooms.”

The honor society has participated in the service project the last four years, but doubled its donation this year. This is the first year WUSTL partnered with Northview.

Purchasing the books required months of fundraising efforts. Students worked at the concession stand during WUSTL basketball games. The group also received grant funding through the Center for New Institutional Social Sciences and the Women’s Society of Washington University and the WUSTL Department of Education. Other grants are pending.

The tradition of KDP

To be in the honor society, students must achieve a prerequisite GPA and complete 12 hours of education classes. Because of this, honor society members typically are upperclassmen or graduate students.

Honor society students are not required to perform a service project, says William F. Tate, PhD, chair of the Department of Education and the Edward Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in Arts & Sciences. “They just had a heart for it,” he says. “They have lived up to the tradition of KDP, actually making a tangible, useful gift to the community.”

Projects such as these, he says, take students “out of theory and into the world,” giving them a real sense of community needs. “Our mission is to prepare our students to work in schools, communities and neighborhoods. We hope that wherever they go professionally, they’ll carry this sense of civic responsibility with them. Hard work and thoughtful planning really can make a difference.”