Look It’s My Book Promotes Love of Reading For Children While Granting Them Hope In Literacy

Janet Roth, President of Look It’s My Book, has created a non-profit organization devoted to giving books to improve children’s reading ability in the Peoria area. Roth, who carried over her knowledge from working in Social Security for 38 years, created the idea based on reading an article in Wired magazine involving America’s decline in education. She proclaims to be a “lifelong volunteer” and says “organizing, planning, and motivating” has carried over to  projects in her organization. In showing the article to Jon Neidy, from OLLIE’s Lifelong Learning, he suggested her committee involvement in a project with Peoria Next, Renaissance Park and School District 150. The project involved a study to find out whether Peoria needed a math, science, and technology academy.

Janet mentions, “We have been functioning a little over three years now and our goal is to cover all thirteen grade schools which will mean giving away over 30,000 books a year. Our ultimate goal is to establish a million dollar endowment fund so that we can continue to do so in the future.”

She chaired the subcommittee with OLLIE that involved why Peoria would need a math, science or technology academy. In the midst of this action, Roth found out a variety of facts on America’s education rate, which were staggering due to the amount of children not learning like they should be in the United States.

Roth states, “We were ranked 25th educationally among developed countries. We had a 25% nation side dropout rate and those students who did graduate were two years behind the graduates in other countries. Needless to say, my committee definitely thought we needed an academy and produced our report. Now we have the QUEST academy.”

The other major happening that occurred to further Roth’s work into Look It’s My Book involved an article in Oprah magazine including women giving six books a year to children in Kindergarten through 4th grade in a lower social economic district with low test scores.

Roth remarks, “Just by being given six books a year they went from underperforming to above the national average. I thought we could do that right here in Peoria. I called my former subcommittee together and asked if they would help me. That’s how Look It’s My Book got started.”

In order to make the organization a success, Roth surveyed community areas to judge what kind of original program she would be able to create. She created a pilot program with Thomas Jefferson School, Salem Lutheran and the Salem Federated churches that were running within the school itself.

Roth remarks, “We had to prove to School District 150 that books in the home improved children’s reading. As part of our proposal, we had Michael Plog, retired employee of the Illinois State Board of Education, review all the literature on giveaway programs that involved both control groups with no books and the groups that got books.”

She adds, “We have statistics from other national book programs that show it works: Reach Out & Read, Reading is Fundamental, and Raising a Reader. We are only approved to adopt the entire school district. We had to incorporate with the state so that any donations to us could be tax deductable. We established an advisory board and had to learn to get our message out and how to do fundraising.”

Roth established a website with the help of Vice-President Lizanne Gray, a pamphlet, and gave speeches to anyone who listened. They now have a annual fund raising dinner, a bi-annual garden walk, and an appeal letter. Mary Greenwood wrote a Look It’s My Book song for their website. These aspects make Look Its My Book multidimensional as far as its promotional arenas and helps get the word out about what the organization does.

Janet mentions, “We were approved to adopt the entire school district. Our goal was to add a school a year but we are only three years old and we are up to nine schools with four to go. We needed to find a warehouse. For example, this year we will give away 22,000 books so we need to store them as we gear up for multiple book distributions.”

She also states, “Now, we have given away over 27,000 books. All the people who said yes from the very beginning have influenced me in making this organization, from agreeing to work on the project to volunteering and supporting the project financially—friends, neighbors, civic organizations and just people who want to see the kids have a future. We have gotten hundreds of great thank you letters from the teachers, principals, and kids. Some make you laugh, some make you cry. Of course, we have our favorite thank yous, such as: ‘Thank you for caring about us so we could read some of the good books you gave us!’… ‘You do not know how helpful this is to me! We get smarter with these books.’ and many others.”

Overall, Look It’s My Book is a powerful organization that allows Janet Roth and her amazing volunteers to help children of all ages, especially those who don’t have the necessary components to strive for lifelong learning due to monetary or other concerns. She truly has achieved something great with Look It’s My Book and is continuing to strive towards bigger goals in the future. All in all, Look It’s My Book has impacted many children’s lives in a positive way. For more information, go to their website: http://www.lookitsmybook.org.

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