Andy’s Books for Kids…Sounds Like a Plan! began as a simple book drive to honor my son, Andy, who died in August of 2006 at the age of 22 from a brain tumor. I wanted to do something positive in his memory that would reflect his tremendous generosity of spirit and giving that were the hallmarks of his life. Despite living with a terminal illness for eleven years he never faltered in his positive attitude, in his drive to move forward even with all the obstacles thrown in his way and in the intense pleasure he garnered living his life to the fullest and seeing others able to do the same.
How We Started
Nine years ago, I asked our family, our friends and Andy’s friends to donate books and funds, in his name, to benefit the seven elementary school libraries in Belvidere, IL, the town where Andy grew up. The response was overwhelming. We received almost 400 books and $4000 and the most frequent question I was asked was whether I was going to make this an annual event.
With the help of a wonderful group of students who are part of the program, Illinois Business Consultants, at the University of Illinois, on August 25th, 2008, Andy’s birthday, my Andy’s Books for Kids was established as a professionally managed charitable fund under the umbrella of The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.
Three years later Andy’s Books for Kids…Sounds Like a Plan! graduated! During the summer of 2011 Andy’s Books applied for and was granted from the United States federal government 501(c)(3) status, designating it as a tax exempt charitable organization no longer under the administration of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois.
If I were to choose one thing that identified Andy with the greatest clarity it would be his love of books and learning. At the age of two he had every single one of his many books memorized; so much so that if we ever tried to paraphrase to shorten reading time he would promptly point out our mistake and make us read, correctly, the entire page again. He never lost that love of reading or the enduring desire for new discoveries to be found in the pages of a book. Even when the tumor had robbed him of his ability to read, he bypassed that obstacle by listening to his favorite books on tape.
Just providing a child with a book gives him the unique opportunity to be lifted out of his ordinary circumstances and vaulted into whatever exciting, fascinating, illuminating, or scary situation the words of the author has conjured up, without ever having to leave the confines of his chair. The goal of Andy’s Books for Kids is to provide access to books to those children who, without that access, might never have the opportunity to experience the pastime that Andy so loved.
Learning to read, and to read well, is the cornerstone of education. With an adequate supply of books, both classics and current, that are appropriate for age and comprehension level and are inclusive for culture, race, gender and native language, the business of teaching our children to read is so much easier. When a child can identify with a story on some level, and can read and understand it on his own, he is much more likely to continue to read, thereby increasing his reading skills, his vocabulary and his general knowledge. By putting as many of these books as possible into the hands of children Andy’s Books for Kids will provide a valuable vehicle for the foundation of the reading skills necessary for a successful educational career.