Lambda Pie Eta 2019 co-presidents Zack Nickl and Alyssa Schirm with donated books.

Lambda Pi Eta members collected 500 of their fellow students’ favorite childhood books and gave them to a struggling library at a New Jersey elementary school.

Lambda launched the service project for Christ the Teacher School in Fort Lee after learning the school didn’t have enough library books for its 217 students. Lambda spread the word and the SHU community responded. Stacks of books were carried from home and piled high in boxes placed around campus.

Executive Board members Zack Nickl and Alyssa Schirm counting books.

Within weeks, the boxes were overflowing with hundreds of future library books, including favorites like “Charlotte’s Web,” “Harry Potter,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and “Green Eggs and Ham”– 500 in total, enough for two books per student.

Zack Nickl, social media coordinator for the honor society, said he didn’t mind giving away his favorite childhood books. “For me, it wasn’t so much like giving away something,” said Nickl, a public relations major at the College of Communications and the Arts (COAR). “It was more like spreading my memories with kids who didn’t have books. ‘Amelia Bedelia’ and ‘Good Night Moon’ were two of the first books I remember reading by myself.”

Dean Yates, founding dean of COAR, said she was grateful to the students for their efforts. “I am so proud of the Lambda Pi Eta students for conducting this hugely successful book drive for children’s literacy,” Dean Yates said. “The book drive will benefit so many children. This kind of community outreach demonstrates the heart of the College of Communication and the Arts. Thanks to all for your generosity!”

LPH collected 500 books for the library at Christ the Teacher School in Fort Lee.

How the Library Books Doubled

Lambda Pi Eta students initially set a goal of collecting 250 books, but that goal was reached and doubled in just over a month. SHU students who went home at the end of first semester came back with stacks of books.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Alyssa Schirm, Lambda Pi Eta vice president and a junior journalism and visual and sound media double major at COAR. “When we doubled our goal – it totally surprised me.”

Schirm volunteers in the Christ the Teacher library once a week and has been trying to piece it back together one book at a time. She noticed that badly worn reference books dated back to the 1950s. “I knew they were not going to be the best resources for the kids to use,” she said. Schirm planted a seed about the school’s dire need for library books at a Lambda Pi Eta meeting, and the service project took off.

Meaningful Service Project

Tyler Cevetello, president of Lambda Pi Eta and a senior communications major at COAR, said he thought the library book drive was meaningful for the honor society.

“Our campaign was such a meaningful project for Lambda Pi Eta,” Cevetello said. “Reading is a vital component in learning to discover language and can help individuals learn how to find their own voice through their observation of others’ voices.

“It was important to me that we did this service project for children’s literacy,” Cevetello added, “because I’ve always admired books’ ability to immerse us in a world where anything is possible.”

Time for New Library Books

Cynthia Schirm, principal of Christ the Teacher School, said with the addition of new books they will finally be able to purge the outdated ones that are torn and falling apart. “I’m very excited,” she said. “We’re a Catholic school and we have very little extra money. It’s hard to find resources for extra things. This is going to help me open the library.”

The principal said she fears that going to the library is a lost art for children today. “Reading too is almost like a lost art,” she added. “Kids should have the actual experience of having a book in their hands and reading…I do believe that kids who read when they’re young are going to read when they’re older.”

A recent New York Times report on raising readers deemed a parent’s most important job to be reading to their kids at home to foster a love of reading.

With that in mind, the principal sent information home to parents about children’s literacy, stressing the importance of families reading together to raise readers. She said she hopes her students will bring their library books home and read them with their families. 

Parents Thankful for Library Books

Christ the Teacher parents were excited and thankful to hear about the Lambda Pi Eta book drive, according to the principal, who said she plans to use some of the new books to create classroom libraries that teachers will be able to use daily. 

Lambda Pi Eta students related to kids wanting to have library books, which is why they were excited about the book drive in the first place. “Reading books allows children to explore aspects of their imagination, as well as the real world, before they grow up and begin to experience real-world adventures on their own,” Cevetello offered.

Lambda Pi Eta is the official honor society of the National Communication Association. If you’d like to join Lambda Pi Eta, please email us to find out how: tyler.cevetello@student.shu.edu.

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