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Must love books: Hutton Philanthropic Initiative sparks reading passion at Fairview Elementary

In an effort to share their own love of reading, two Indiana University undergraduate students have created a literacy program at Fairview Elementary School in partnership with Scholastic Books.

hutton students photo

Photo by Chris Meyer

Hannah Wert and Adeel Chaudhry created a literacy program for Fairview Elementary students, the Hutton Philanthropic Initiative.

Print-Quality Photo

Hutton Honors College students Hannah Wert and Adeel Chaudhry were awarded a $5,000 Metz Scholarship to create the program, called the Hutton Philanthropic Initiative.

The IU students chose Fairview as the beneficiary of the program because of the number of low-income families at the school. According to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 92 percent of Fairview students receive free or reduced lunches and 85 percent live in subsidized housing. Recent budget cuts of nearly $6 million dollars to the Monroe County Community Schools have resulted in mandatory layoffs of school librarians in Bloomington, making the program even more important than ever, said Wert.

Wert is the philanthropic coordinator for the Hutton Honors College Association (HHCA), and Chaudhry is the group's fundraising and development coordinator.

"The difficulty is choosing the right books for the right reading level and determining how many students at Fairview are at which reading level," said Wert prior to the initiative's mid-April kickoff. With help from the school's principal and librarian, the members of HHCA selected engaging, age-appropriate books that were distributed at a Celebration of Reading day at Fairview that kicked off the initiative Friday, April 16.

IU volunteers looked through the books and read with groups of Fairview students during the two-hour event. Each child went home with two new books and a healthful snack.

The project has long-term implications -- Wert and Chaudhry hope to help instill in the children a lifelong passion for reading and a confidence in their reading abilities, and plans are in place to create a story-telling project and a multimedia book project.

Hutton Honors Association members involved with the project will continue to meet for the next four semesters to address the Fairview program's long-term goals. Over time, Wert and Chaudhry hope to develop a reading tracking system to monitor the children's progress, and the IU students plan to work with local agencies such as the Banneker Center, Crestmont Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Rise on programs that will benefit Fairview.

Wert said the HHCA hopes the Hutton Philanthropic Initiative will continue after she and Chaudhry graduate, eventually pairing IU volunteers one-on-one with every child at Fairview. The Hutton initiative won the top Civic Engagement award for IU student organizations this spring.

When Wert and Chaudhry graduate from IU next spring, new members of HHCA will be elected to fill their shoes.

"We think it's really important to focus on academics, especially learning how to focus at a young age," said Chaudhry. "We're hoping to provide them with a greater support system for literacy."

About the Hutton Honors College Association (HHCA)

The mission of the Hutton Honors College Association is to connect honors students and to create a sense of community by facilitating social and educational opportunities for students living in various housing groups.

The group's three lead coordinators (in the areas of philanthropy, fundraising and events) are responsible for dictating action to the rest of the HHCA community, which consists of more than 200 neighborhood coordinators, community leaders, presidents and executive boards. The HHCA is composed of 12 honors councils in each housing group, which execute and organize the programs that unite all IU Bloomington students, both on and off campus.

--By University Communications arts intern Madeline Haller

This story was originally published May 20, 2010.