A Celebration of Reading! The Blackstone Innovation School, St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, and City Year

On Friday, March 9, St. Stephen's Youth Programs and City Year hosted a literacy celebration- the Blackstone Innovation School’s Eighth Annual Read Across America Day! This is a nation-wide event and is timed to fall near the birthday of many youngsters' favorite author, Dr. Seuss. Here in the South End, forty volunteers from non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, and corporate partners gathered in the Blackstone Library.  Reunion Christian Church, a congregation that meets in the Blackstone’s auditorium, and Bain Capital, the Blackstone’s City Year sponsor, were among the most well represented groups! Each adult reader picked out a book and then joined a classroom for an afternoon of reading. Students eagerly greeted volunteers, asked them questions about their jobs, listened to stories, and shared books.

Starting in 2011, the Blackstone Innovation School and St. Stephen's Youth Programs have worked together to create a fully-functional library in what was previously a dusty storage space.  Thanks to the dedication of many volunteers as well as funding from Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester, the school now has a top-notch library. Blackstone’s library boasts more than 12,000 volumes that are catalogued in an online database, has a subscription to EBSCO, hosts annual author visits, and celebrates this Read Across America Day each year!  Every week, twenty-four classes full of smiling, excited students visit the library for read aloud time, the opportunity to borrow books, the chance to travel the world thanks to the magic of reading, and to build their literacy skills.

The Blackstone Library manages to do all this thanks to the resources of non-profit organizations and churches and the time of volunteers. The Blackstone Library is staffed solely by volunteers and yet it is one of the few public elementary schools in Boston that is open Monday through Friday. Currently, Boston Public Schools has only nine certified elementary schools librarians on staff, serving about 75 schools with elementary age students.  This makes school partners, like St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and City Year, all the more important. To support the Blackstone Library’s growing collection, check out their book wish list at portersquarebooks.com/wishlist/280. To learn more about the library and to explore volunteer opportunities, contact Maureen Burns at maureen@ssypboston.org or stop by the Blackstone School to ask a library volunteer for a tour.

By Maureen Burns, Senior Manager of School and Community Partnerships

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