TALLADEGA -- Every second-grade student in the Talladega City school system now has his or her own personal home library, thanks to months of preparation and dedication by organizers of the “Pages From Pam” book campaign.
The Pages From Pam campaign was established in the fall of 2016 to pay tribute to former Graham Elementary second-grade teacher Pam Reaves Peters. The book drive’s purpose was to provide multiple books and a book satchel to each second-grader enrolled in Talladega City Schools.
The late teacher’s spirit remains alive through the efforts of her nephew, Auburn High School junior Hayden Burch.
“For many of the students, these will be the first books ever in their homes.” Burch said. “Having books in the home greatly increases the opportunity for literacy.”
Throughout the week, thousands of donated books and personalized satchels made by the Alabama Industries for the Blind were hand delivered to second-graders at Graham, R.L. Young, Salter and Houston elementary schools in Talladega by Burch and his family. Each of the second-graders received 10 books.
“My house has been filled with stacks of books for months,” Burch said. “There was a lot of planning involved. I knew I wanted to do something to honor (Peters’) memory, and to somehow give back.
“My initial idea was to just donate some books to the library at Graham, but I knew I could do more.”
The high school student raised funds through a GoFundMe account with a $5,000 goal, or the approximate cost to purchase 1,000 new second-grade books. Burch also set up various book collection sites throughout Auburn and Talladega.
Burch did more than just meet his goal -- he exceeded it, by collecting more than 1,500 books.
Throughout the school year, various book and monetary donations poured in from individuals, Auburn elementary schools, Auburn High School, church groups, Maverick Publishing, trivia night fundraisers, GoFundMe -- and even a grant from Disney.
Burch will continue to raise funds on GoFundMe, with the same goal for next year.
“Hayden wants to keep the GoFundMe account open and continue the campaign for next year’s second-graders,” said Patti Burch, Hayden’s mother. “We want to do this at least until he graduates, hopefully longer. We just want to thank everyone for their overwhelming support.
“All of the books collected will be put to good use. Some of the books we received were in poor condition or were not on the second-grade reading level, and those are being donated to various community and after school programs in Auburn.”
As of Friday, March 17, $4,322 has been raised on the campaign’s GoFundMe page.
When asked why he chose a book campaign to honor his aunt, Hayden Burch replied, “Her entire life was devoted to teaching. She loved reading and had a compassion for collecting books for her students.”
The campaign officially began at the start of the 2016-17 academic year.
Burch presented the idea to his Future Business Leaders of America club at Auburn High School, and the organization has since adopted it as its class service project.
In Talladega, Burch reached out to City Schools Superintendent Terry Roller and each of the four elementary school principals.
“People today are always talking about what’s wrong with our youth, but Hayden is the perfect example of what is right,” Roller said. “This gentleman is a leader in every sense of the word.
“He took a real-world problem such as childhood literacy and helped its cause by being creative and innovative, while honoring his aunt. I just want to say that I am so impressed by his efforts, and on behalf of our entire community, thank you for taking the time to invest in our younger generation.”
Added Salter Elementary second-grade teacher Ashley Hester, “Reading is so important to students, because it builds confidence. The books will also help our students accumulate Accelerated Reader points throughout the school year.”
Peters passed away suddenly on May 26, 2015, at the age of 55 after being diagnosed with cancer. She died not long after retiring from the city school system.
Peters spent most of her career teaching second-grade at Graham Elementary.
“Everyone always tells me that they remember Pam by her bright smile, but I hope people realize how much she loved teaching -- and especially how much she enjoyed reading to her students, and even to her own children,” Patti Burch said. “I know she would be so tickled and proud to see all of this.”