Inspired by the story told by an old oak tree, a book club from Norton Elementary was moved to start a campaign with the National Forest Foundation to raise $500 to rebuild forests across the nation.
Allen resident Brook Alcorn organized a summer book club for her sons and gained a following of 20 boys and the school librarian, Jodye Koopman, from Norton Elementary as well as support from the school. The campaign started June 27 after the boys read and discussed Katherine Applegate’s “Wishtree,” a work that explores openness to other cultures in a growing, diverse community and touches on the importance of caring for nature as she gives voices and personality to the animals and the main tree of the novel.
The idea was picked up by Lisa Holt who began the Vaughan Elementary summer book club.
“There are three different components to it,” Holt said. “There’s the book club itself, which is an awesome idea in itself because there are boys in a book club, then there’s the discussion about a faith different from the majority of our community. There’s a diverse mix of faiths in our book club, but nobody in our group is Muslim, so we visited the mosque. Then there's the fundraising aspect for the tree campaign. It’s three different things that came from a book club that Brook wanted to start.”
Alcorn previously did book clubs for four summers with her daughter from the age of 9 to 13. With each book club, Alcorn set up a small-scale project to accompany the book she and her daughter read. Now that her two sons – Beck and Shatton – are both 9, she decided to hold their first book club this year.
“I wanted to see the boys reading,” Alcorn said. “I feel like often enough, boys get stuck with, ‘you’re supposed to like math,’ and the girls are supposed to love reading. I am an English teacher, so my kids read a lot, and I wanted them to look at it like, ‘hey, it’s cool for boys to do too,’ so that’s where it started.”
Instead of parents simply donating money, the boys were tasked to find ways to earn money themselves through picking up extra chores around the house and organizing bake sales among other means. The club has raised $600, surpassing their goal.
“I wanted the boys to understand that even at their age, if they work together, they can do something big,” Alcorn said. “I wanted them to understand that they are not too young to make an impact. I also wanted to let them see the community impact when I opened the campaign.”
After starting the project, Alcorn began posting about the campaign on Facebook where others began contributing to the donations. Vaughan Elementary parents soon began putting together their own book clubs to help contribute to the National Forest Foundation campaign.
“It’s really good that we have all these people donating for the trees, because all the trees are being cut down for space, which means there’s more polluted air and less oxygen,” Paul Holt, a member of the Vaughan Elementary summer book club said. “It’s sad because more trees are going away, which leads to climate change, and the ice will melt causing flooding on the coastlines.”
After reading the book the boys gained interest in understanding how to use natural resources without wasting them.
“I would think people would be more careful,” Max Neuf, member of the Norton Elementary summer book club, said. “If you want to build a house, I’m okay with that, but not wasting it. Don’t clear a forest, just get a few trees, because you only need a few, then plant new ones in their place, so there’s no shortage of trees.”
In addition to starting the campaign, the clubs toured the mosque of the Islamic Association of Allen to learn about Islam and the culture behind the religion.
“They opened their doors and let us in, which I think is really neat,” Alcorn said. “I asked if anyone had access to a local mosque, and all the feedback was, ‘you need to get in touch with these people.’ I asked them, and they said they’d be more than happy to have us.”
Both Brook Alcorn and Lisa Holt hope to continue their book clubs for future summers.
“As long as they’re on board and showing up, I will keep on doing it,” Alcorn said.