Pure Michigan. That’s the slogan, the campaign for Michigan. Michigan is a state that’s definitely coming back. People are starting to actually choose to come to Michigan, to vacation, to live, to stay. Alger Heights is a very diverse area. Socioeconomically diverse, racially diverse, religiously diverse. But six years ago we were really struggling with unemployment. Alger Heights had the highest crime rate in the area of Grand Rapids. And so bringing all the neighbors together perhaps would help decrease the crime, increase the neighborhood feel. So it has an agenda, but a fun agenda behind it. Story Time in the Heights started the summer before my freshman year here at Grand Valley. And I knew Barb because she lives down the street from me. And she just had asked me if I could come volunteer for this thing that she was starting, and it ended up, it had a great turnout. There were tons of kids that showed up. There’s lots of ice cream, lots of books. And it really is, it’s a whole neighborhood effort. You know, like a community coming together type thing. We don’t have a single place that gives us books for free. We have several different bookstores, local as well as national stores that give us a great discount. So sometimes I have a choice. I can go through and I can pick out books. Other times we get books in bulk, and what I get is what I get. What makes a good book for children to read and what’s good literature is not always the same thing. So I try to get a variety of books that will interest a variety of kids, because the whole goal is to get kids reading. And once they read something that they really like and they get into it, maybe they would be willing to stretch. As a kid, I definitely was somebody that would sit and read for hours. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I understand that there are definitely kids that don’t naturally come to enjoy it. So I think having a program like this is fantastic, because you’re allowing the kids to use what they’re already interested in, to kind of get them interested in reading. Which is a lifelong skill that you’ll need. In the past few years I’ve definitely been more behind the scenes with helping Barb with whatever she needs, you know, back here. But it is great to go out and see the kids, see how much they enjoy the books, and just getting together and enjoying a night of some ice cream and some reading. I’m very passionate about literacy. I’m very passion about kids getting an opportunity to read and to have their very own books that they can read and touch and read again. I’m passionate about services for children in the world, making sure that they have what they need to grow and learn, and to become healthy, happy productive adults. I’m hopeful for a community that can provide all those things. A community where people do support one another. A system that supports families and kids and growing in healthy ways.

Story Time in the Heights, Michigan | INDIE AMERICA | PBS Digital Studios
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