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Students Raise Money for Their Schools By Reading Books

By Paul Biasco | June 27, 2013 9:56am
 Lincoln Elementary in June opened its Little Free Library, which has been a hit among students.
Lincoln Elementary in June opened its Little Free Library, which has been a hit among students.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — A former teacher has found a creative way to both raise money for a Chicago Public School and motivate kids to read.

In 2011, Kim Morrow started iscream4reading at Lincoln Park's Abraham Lincoln Elementary, which her two children attend. In its first year, the program raised $59,000 for the school.

"I'm trying to market to any school that's looking to change their face of fundraising," she said. "We are stuck in the age where we solicit a lot of junk, whether it's candles, magazines or whatever."

Instead of asking aunts, uncles and grandparents to buy that "junk," iscream4reading asks them to make a pledge toward summer reading.

A family friend might pledge 10 cents for every hour of reading, and at the end of the summer the more hours the student reads, the greater the total. People can also pledge a set amount.

The success of the first two years at Lincoln Elementary led Morrow to expand the program to nearby LaSalle Language Academy in Old Town, which launched its reading drive during the last week of the school year.

Morrow, who formerly taught third grade at the old Jenner Academy of the Arts building for three years, said about 220 students participated last year and 86 of them logged more than 100 hours of summer reading.

"It's made reading part of our family," said Trigg Thorstenson, who has two children at Lincoln.

Thorstenson was so encouraged by the newfound passion for reading his children gained through the program that he agreed to construct a miniature library for Lincoln.

What he built is actually Chicago's fourth "Little Free Library."

It looks like an oversized mailbox, and it's filled with books that students can take any time they want. It also accepts donations.

"Honestly, the whole time I was building it, I was thinking of the program," Thorstenson said.

Rome Thorstenson, a 10-year-old heading into fifth grade at Lincoln, racked up 157 hours of reading during the first year of the iscream4reading program, and tallied 224 in its second year.

Morrow's goal is to start a movement. She said she has spoken with some suburban schools, as well as in Michigan, about expanding the program.

"In general a lot of the schools, whether you are in public school [or] private school, everyone is always trying to get a budget they can spend on education," she said.