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Community Responds to Book Drive for students at Robinson Elementary

From left: Bama S. Gray of the Fairfield Industrial HIgh School Alumni Association and Devon Frazier-Holston, a fifth grade teacher at Robinson Elementary School stand among boxes of books donated to the school. (Ariel Worthy/The Birmingham Times)
By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times

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The Birmingham Times last week reported online that Devon Frazier-Holston, a fifth-grade teacher at Robinson Elementary, came up with an idea, I See Me, a book drive where books written by African American authors or have a main character of color are donated to school. As a result of the article, boxes of books have arrived at the school in Fairfield.

The goal is for each of Robinson’s 301 students to have at least one book to take home with them to read during summer break. They currently have over 1,100 books. In fact, while speaking with The Times on Tuesday, the school received two boxes of books. Each student will be able to go home with two-three books for the summer, Holston said.

The book drive is for the entire school, kindergarten through fifth grade, but the teacher said more books are needed for kindergarten through second graders.

“I want to ensure that each child has a book on their level that they can read,” she said. “I have a lot of books for upper grade and a ton of third grade books.”

The book drive ended on May 15, though Holston said she won’t turn down donations beyond that date. Donations rolled in from the community as well as bookstores. 2nd and Charles bookstore donated 500 books to students and Usborne Publishing donated $100 worth of books to the school. The Fairfield Industrial High School Alumni Association also donated money to I See Me.

Looking at the books collected, which were scattered in various boxes throughout the classroom, Holston became teary-eyed.

“I’m just a teacher, not a principal, not an administrator or a media specialist,” she said. “I see what these kids see in this community and them having only positive role models at home and at school isn’t enough. I’m so amazed and grateful that so many people came together for this.”

“It takes a village to raise a child and this is my village,” Holston said, pointing to the overflow of books

To donate books, dropped them off at Robinson Elementary School – 301 61st Street Fairfield – or purchase books at Barnes & Noble at the Summit and leaving at the store to be picked up.

The school has collected books from bestselling authors to local authors like Nia Mya Reese, the 9-year-old bestselling author from Birmingham.

Reading Is Fundamental

Holston said she was shocked to discover that many of her students did not have books at home.

“You do have students who have books at home, but a large majority of my children didn’t,” she said.

Holston, who taught third grade before becoming a fifth-grade teacher a couple of years ago, said she read a statistic that said students who do not read on a third grade level by third grade are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

“I remember standing there looking at my students the next day, feeling chills,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘they’ve already decided my children’s future based on their reading level; I can’t let that happen.”

She made sure her students had materials to read. She built a classroom library, collected books for her class but wanted to do more. To build comprehension, she began Reading Response, where students were required to read to an adult for at least 20 minutes a week.

Holston, a product of Fairfield school system, also knew that reading helps to steer young people away from crime.

“It would kill me to find out that one of the students I touched ended up in the criminal justice system,” she said. “I would wonder ‘what could I have done differently to ensure they don’t become a statistic?’”