After the Douglas County Library closed, Joseph Lane Middle School eighth-grader Marin Gray began an initiative to increase access to books for local children.
She started with a Facebook campaign and later sought a nonprofit organization to assist her. After working with Mercy Foundation, Marin presented 56 Kindle e-reader devices to Eastwood Elementary School on Dec. 5.
“We’re a school that has a low socioeconomic status, so this provides some of our students an opportunity to have access to a resource that they may not have at home,” said Nicki Opp, the Eastwood Elementary School principal.
This year Eastwood will use the Kindle devices in second-grade classrooms, a grade level lacking the daily use of hand-held devices because of budget constraints. Second-grade students will now be able to access programs on Kindle devices daily.
“What we’re finding is that students are excited to do anything that includes technology,” Opp said. “It gives some variety and makes it a little different when you’re given an opportunity to read off a device as opposed to a book.”
Next year after the school purchases Chromebooks and/or iPads for the second grade, the school’s goal is to move the Kindle devices into the library to be part of the check-out inventory. The school’s library has expanded to a digital book library, so students can download books onto their e-reader from a program called OverDrive.
“It’s amazing that this was done by a student,” Opp said. “It’s also a model for our students that even young people are capable of doing great things.”
Despite her young age, Marin already has a long history of community service. As Miss Oregon Junior High, Marin promoted the pageant’s anti-bullying platform by developing two programs within her community. When she heard that the Douglas County Library was closing, she decided to shift her focus to helping students who might not have access to books anymore.
“It’s important to develop an early love of reading for kids, so I wanted to provide kids a way to do that,” Marin said.
So she began a fundraiser called the “Kindle a Love of Reading Project” that enabled her to raise more than $2,400 to purchase the 56 Kindles for the students at Eastwood. She selected Kindles because she believes technology may be more appealing to students than books. Marin also enjoys reading with a Kindle.
“A lot of kids won’t pick up a book normally, but if they’re given the option to do so they will choose to use a tablet over plain reading, so I’m hoping that this will get kids to read more who won’t necessarily read on their own,” Marin said.
In an effort to raise more money and to purchase the Kindles at a rate only offered to nonprofits, Marin teamed up with the Mercy Foundation. She also worked closely with the foundation’s “Learning Child Committee” to raise additional funds and to select a school most in need.
Through networking with the foundation, Marin learned that “you can only get so much done with one person, but once you reach out to someone else, you can get an infinite number of things done and impact your community.”
Marin’s future plans are to continue providing Kindle e-reader devices for other schools within the community and to positively change the world around her.
“I’m enjoying to continue impacting our community in a positive way,” Marin said.