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So Many Books, So Little Time

So Many Books, So Little Time

Natasha Smith

Natasha Smith

August 7, 2018

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis perhaps said it best: “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”

"By engaging their passions through literacy, I was able to get my students excited about reading."

Few know this better than Gabrielle Robergeau, senior digital producer at Havas Tonic. That’s why Gabrielle launched a program in New York that helps kids discover their passion for reading. And it’s making a real impact on the lives of kids who need it most.

 

So, tell us: How important are literacy and education?

Reading—and not just literacy, but reading for pleasure—holds a direct correlation to children’s and teens’ educational success.

Unfortunately for many kids, reading is a luxury. Children in low-income households and schools often don’t have the privilege of walking into a bookstore to discover their own reading interests or experience what a new book has to offer.

You created Unlock Hearts, a program that helps kids discover their passion for reading. How did you come up with this idea?

Soon after I graduated, I became an elementary school teacher. Whenever I could, I purchased books for my students based on their personal interests. By engaging their passions through literacy, I was able to get my students excited about reading. Once some of my struggling readers started bringing their books to recess, I knew it was a hit. They couldn’t put their books down.

A brand new book about something each student was personally interested in was enough to get them excited about literacy. Once I left the classroom, I knew I had to continue creating opportunities for students to experience book-buying, and Unlock Hearts was born.

Years later, I transitioned into digital marketing. I recognized there was a desire on the part of many corporate millennials to give back, and I never forgot my students in East New York, Brooklyn, and other Title I schools around the country that were in need. Unlock Hearts was born to connect millennials and local bookstores with low-income youth to sponsor book-buying and inspire a new generation of readers.

How’d you come up with the name “Unlock Hearts”?
The sole purpose of Unlock Hearts is to give young readers an opportunity to unlock their hearts and discover their own passion for reading, and, as a result, a better opportunity for success.

"Changing interest’s leads to varying exposure, which is a pillar of our program."

Which communities does the program impact the most?
Our program connects with NYC schools that have the greatest economic challenges. Statistically, these schools have student bodies who are black and brown students. The idea that kids record a video book review is cute and encouraging.

So, why’d you decide that participants should share a book review on YouTube?
The video element is an important part of our program. Not only do children get experience in video production, but at the same time, they are practicing life skills—learning how to express themselves, thinking cohesively about their book selection, and making a recommendation to their peers.

Young readers in this age group are already on social media and use it frequently to express themselves and to connect with peers. Encouraging them to use social media to inspire others to read was a no-brainer.

How do families find out about this program?
It’s simple. Parents can visit unlockhearts.org or talk to the librarian at their child’s school about getting the program into their schools. We also work directly with school districts in areas of NYC with the greatest economic need. We welcome all NYC students ages 8 to 14.

How can other kids and parents get involved?
Easy. Parents should sign up their children online.

Which topics, do you find, are most popular with kid readers?
It varies! And that’s the beauty of what we’re doing with Unlock Hearts—we allow our readers to have unprecedented choice. We find our readers interests and curiosity change month to month, and I love that. Changing interest’s leads to varying exposure, which is a pillar of our program.

What kind of books do you like to read?
I read two to three books a month. And like the students in my program, my interests vary from month to month.

What’s next for Unlock Hearts?
We’re partnering with school districts to plan and sponsor field trips to bookstores.

How does this passion project fuel the work that you do at Havas Tonic?
The responsibility I have to the community I grew up in and worked in as an educator fuels all I do.

"By engaging their passions through literacy, I was able to get my students excited about reading."

Few know this better than Gabrielle Robergeau, senior digital producer at Havas Tonic. That’s why Gabrielle launched a program in New York that helps kids discover their passion for reading. And it’s making a real impact on the lives of kids who need it most.

 

So, tell us: How important are literacy and education?

Reading—and not just literacy, but reading for pleasure—holds a direct correlation to children’s and teens’ educational success.

Unfortunately for many kids, reading is a luxury. Children in low-income households and schools often don’t have the privilege of walking into a bookstore to discover their own reading interests or experience what a new book has to offer.

You created Unlock Hearts, a program that helps kids discover their passion for reading. How did you come up with this idea?

Soon after I graduated, I became an elementary school teacher. Whenever I could, I purchased books for my students based on their personal interests. By engaging their passions through literacy, I was able to get my students excited about reading. Once some of my struggling readers started bringing their books to recess, I knew it was a hit. They couldn’t put their books down.

A brand new book about something each student was personally interested in was enough to get them excited about literacy. Once I left the classroom, I knew I had to continue creating opportunities for students to experience book-buying, and Unlock Hearts was born.

Years later, I transitioned into digital marketing. I recognized there was a desire on the part of many corporate millennials to give back, and I never forgot my students in East New York, Brooklyn, and other Title I schools around the country that were in need. Unlock Hearts was born to connect millennials and local bookstores with low-income youth to sponsor book-buying and inspire a new generation of readers.

How’d you come up with the name “Unlock Hearts”?
The sole purpose of Unlock Hearts is to give young readers an opportunity to unlock their hearts and discover their own passion for reading, and, as a result, a better opportunity for success.

"Changing interest’s leads to varying exposure, which is a pillar of our program."

Which communities does the program impact the most?
Our program connects with NYC schools that have the greatest economic challenges. Statistically, these schools have student bodies who are black and brown students. The idea that kids record a video book review is cute and encouraging.

So, why’d you decide that participants should share a book review on YouTube?
The video element is an important part of our program. Not only do children get experience in video production, but at the same time, they are practicing life skills—learning how to express themselves, thinking cohesively about their book selection, and making a recommendation to their peers.

Young readers in this age group are already on social media and use it frequently to express themselves and to connect with peers. Encouraging them to use social media to inspire others to read was a no-brainer.

How do families find out about this program?
It’s simple. Parents can visit unlockhearts.org or talk to the librarian at their child’s school about getting the program into their schools. We also work directly with school districts in areas of NYC with the greatest economic need. We welcome all NYC students ages 8 to 14.

How can other kids and parents get involved?
Easy. Parents should sign up their children online.

Which topics, do you find, are most popular with kid readers?
It varies! And that’s the beauty of what we’re doing with Unlock Hearts—we allow our readers to have unprecedented choice. We find our readers interests and curiosity change month to month, and I love that. Changing interest’s leads to varying exposure, which is a pillar of our program.

What kind of books do you like to read?
I read two to three books a month. And like the students in my program, my interests vary from month to month.

What’s next for Unlock Hearts?
We’re partnering with school districts to plan and sponsor field trips to bookstores.

How does this passion project fuel the work that you do at Havas Tonic?
The responsibility I have to the community I grew up in and worked in as an educator fuels all I do.

Natasha Smith is the strategic communications manager for Havas Group. She happily represents 404 in the 212.

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