Community Heroes

Chelsey Barrios

High School Students Collect
Thousands of Books for Read to Grow

By Cindy Gerstl from Connecticut

Chelsey Barrios, left, Kirsten Jerzyk, and their classmates collected 4,179 books for Read to Grow
Chelsey Barrios, left, Kirsten Jerzyk, and their classmates collected 4,179 books for Read to Grow

Students from one Connecticut high school collected an astounding 4,179 new and gently used books for children in need throughout the state. The books went to Read to Grow, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is “to give children a good start in life by educating parents about the important role they play in their child’s language and literacy development.” In turn Read to Grow distributes them to families with the hope of putting a book in every Connecticut child’s hand.

Organized by high school junior Chelsey Barrios, this book drive is one of many for Read to Grow, but it is the biggest single school book drive benefiting Read to Grow and its literacy programs in the organization’s 10-year history. Chelsey was familiar with Read to Grow because her older sister, Emily, had collected books for the organization before graduating high school. She thought she could appeal to her classmates’ spirit of competition as well as to their spirit of public service by inviting them to round up gently used children’s books for a prize.

Enlisting the help of friend and classmate Kirsten Jerzyk and the school’s Peer Advocates group, they placed attractively decorated collection boxes in 60 classrooms throughout the school. Taffy Bowes, acting as an advisor, helped the girls obtain the necessary approvals to run the drive and to offer the prize.

“We had no idea it would be quite as successful as it was. The teachers really got into it and then got the kids into it,” says Barrios. “This shows you can definitely make a difference. If you take the initiative, you can get things done.” In addition to the book drive, Barrios is also very active in other community service projects.

The winning classroom collected 667 books and received a catered breakfast. Several other classes collected hundreds of books. The real winners, though, are the numerous Connecticut children who will receive the books through their schools, community centers and health facilities thanks to all those involved with the book drive.

Page created on 8/27/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 8/5/2018 12:14:15 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Extra Info

Read to Grow, a statewide nonprofit organization based in Branford, CT, is dedicated to improving early literacy in Connecticut by providing books for children and encouraging parents, as their child’s first teacher, to read to their baby right from birth. Read to Grow gives a new book to every newborn in our seven partner hospitals, reaching more than 40 percent of all babies born in the state, and makes free new and gently used books available to children through middle school age. Read to Grow has distributed more than 350,000 books since the organization began 10 years ago.

Learn more by visiting their website: