Village Project hosts book buy event at Barnes & Noble to wrap-up successful semester

Nearly 200 ABSS students were given gift cards to pick up any books that excited them and potentially spark an interest in reading.

As dozens of local elementary students zipped in and out of the stacks at the Burlington Barnes & Noble, excited to show their families or friends what book they’d picked up, Sydney Simmons said the event was a perfect way to close another successful semester of the It Takes a Village project.

Sydney Simmons, program coordinator, discusses the Village Project book buy event.

Nearly 200 Alamance-Burlington School System students spent time on Elon’s campus this fall strengthening their academic skills throughout the fall semester through the Village Project, a district-wide tutoring initiative spearheaded by the Center for Access and Success at Elon. As a wrap-up event, the Village Project invited students and their families to Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, Nov. 29, and gave each student a gift card and free range to pick up whatever book they wanted.

Simmons, the program coordinator of the Village Project, said the book buy event was a “full circle” moment involving the local children, families, tutors and volunteers, and Elon students.

“We want to grant them opportunities to access spaces and resources that they might not otherwise have especially when it comes to continuing learning,” Simmons said. “So for us to be able to give gift cards and the students shop for books that they’re interested in could spark something in them.”

“How the Grinch Steal Christmas” sparked the interest of Carter Wiggins, a first-grader at Elon Elementary. This is the first semester Carter has been a student in the Village Project and he said it’s hard to choose a moment that stands out as his favorite.

His mother, Lauren Miles, said that Carter is always excited about going to the Village Project to meet with his “friends” — the tutors — and other students from other schools. And over the last semester, Miles said she has noticed substantial growth in Carter.

Elon University It Takes a Village project coordinated a Book Buy at Barnes and Noble in Burlington at Alamance Crossing November 29, 2023. Each ABSS student was given a gift card which could be used to purchase books. Pre-K student Elena Paredes, 5, couldn’t wait to start reading one of her books, and sat down in the store to begin.

“It’s definitely helped him being more receptive to support and has increased his reading abilities and overall with his education,” Miles said. “The Village Project has been another environment for us to say that we have help and support.”

This year, the Village Project expanded some of its focus to address the families of the students. Each Wednesday, parents were able to attend informational sessions while their kids were receiving instruction from the Village Project tutors and liaisons. From financial planning to adult literacy, a wide range of sessions were held and provided a similar instructional space for parents as for the kids.

“During the time when your kid is learning, to learn about something else that might be beneficial as a parent is very helpful,” Miles said.

Travella Free, executive director of the Center for Access and Success, said “the Village Book Buy provided a wonderful opportunity for our ABSS students.  Reading boosts a child’s self-confidence and fosters a love for learning which leads to academic success.”

Hillcrest Elementary student Anthony Martinez, 8, was excited to pick out some new books.

Michele Claypool has been a liaison with the Village Project for three years. An interventionist and literacy coach at Haw River Elementary, Claypool describes herself as a champion of reading among young children having nearly 10,000 books in her classroom at one point.

When the previous liaison from her school stepped down, Claypool didn’t hesitate to get involved. Supporting the educational growth of local children while also providing them access to college students and a college environment is what makes the Village Project so effective, Claypool said.

“The Village is such a wonderful opportunity for our students in the community to get that extra help,” she said.

One of the students who has been involved in helping with the Village Project is Molly Moylan ’26. Moylan learned of the Village Project through her adviser and thought it would be a great volunteer opportunity.

What she didn’t expect was how genuinely rewarding the experience of working with the local kids would be.

South Graham Elementary student India Storre, 7, shows one of the books she got to her teacher Alison Crosby, who teaches second grade at South Graham Elementary.

“It’s important to show that reading is fun. School takes away the joy of reading sometimes, so getting to spend time with family and making reading a more personal thing is important,” Moylan said.

Daphne Større’s two daughters India, a second-grader, and Charlotte, a fourth-grader, were involved in the Village Project for the fall semester. The South Graham Elementary students couldn’t control their excitement during the book-buying event, looking to find books and show them to anyone in sight.

That excitement has been consistent throughout the semester, Større said.

“They have just been ecstatic to go and learn … and that has made me happy to see them excited,” Større said.