When I was young, my grandmother used to pick up my sisters and me once a week to visit the Saguaro Library in Phoenix. Here, I met Amelia Bedelia, Ramona Quimby and many other characters I fondly remember. This early exposure to books had a profound impact on my life. Namely, it helped cultivate my imagination and lifelong love of learning.
Because this was part of my upbringing, I naively assumed most children experienced something similar. However, after receiving an email from VSUW’s Women’s Leadership Council last year, not only did I realize I was wrong, but I was also confronted with the fact that many children don’t have access to books or someone to read to them. The Million Minutes Challenge was created to fill this void.
I had to get involved. I shared information about the challenge with my colleagues at AAA Arizona and not surprising, they wanted in. Within hours, we had created our team, the AAA Swashbooklers.
Over the past year, I’ve spent time reading with dozens of children in the community.
I enjoyed Read to Me nights at UMOM because I never knew what to expect. Some nights, I did the reading, and others, I listened. And some nights, you just had to roll with the punches. One night, for example, my reading buddy got antsy after getting through a book or two. I recognized I was losing his interest, so I decided to take his lead to start building a fort out of the books surrounding us on the floor. He was engaged and using his imagination. We may not have been reading a story, but we were creating one of our own.
The AAA Swashbooklers logged more than 17,000 minutes during the challenge. I couldn’t be more proud, as each minute read helped contribute to the success of this campaign. Together, the 76 teams who participated in the Million Minutes Challenge logged more than 5.5 million minutes of reading. How incredible is that?
And while all teams made this result possible, one shined above the rest. Sine Elementary School logged 4 million minutes – nearly 74 percent – of the challenge’s total minutes. Way to go, Sine Elementary!
The Million Minutes Challenge may have been measured by minutes, but its value is much more than that. A year ago, we became aware of a need affecting thousands of Valley children. The problem couldn’t be fixed by money. Rather, it required volunteer readers to invest their time.