Emmerson ’11 Spearheads Book Drive for Gotwals Elementary

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Shortly before spring break, book collection boxes appeared around campus as part of a book drive for K-4 children’s books for Gotwals Elementary School in Norristown. The book drive is the result of a long relationship between Melissa Emmerson ’11 and Gotwals Elementary.

Emmerson’s work at Gotwals began in the fall of 2009, when she observed a 2nd grade classroom for a course in Language Minority Education. In the spring, she continued to observe in the same classroom for her Literacies and Social Identities class, and volunteered at the school on her own time last fall. Currently, she is a member of a research group in her Literacies seminar working on a small-scale ethnography at Gotwals, focusing on the ways that English language learners experience literacy in the classroom.

Gotwals’ student population is 50% Hispanic, and Norristown’s Mexican immigrant community has blossomed over the past decade. Faced with under-resourced classrooms and a growing population of English language learners, Gotwals Principal Jeanette Fernandez suggested to Emmerson that a book drive for children’s books would be a great help to the school.

With the help of some friends and fellow education students, Emmerson took on the project. Although much of her work at Gotwals has been for classes at Swarthmore, the book drive is not related to an academic assignment. Emmerson said, “It’s just because I’m in love with the school, and want to give back to them.”

The book drive has already collected about three hundred books, and aims to reach five hundred. The drive is seeking children’s books of all genres, in both English and Spanish.

Collection boxes in student dormitories will remain there until March 27. After that, the only boxes left on the Swarthmore campus will be in academic buildings, with the hope of encouraging professors to donate. A number of the boxes will move to Bryn Mawr, and boxes will also be placed in sites in the Ville including T-Bumbles, Executive Cleaners, and the Creative Living Room. Though collection in dormitories will end next week, collection at these other locations will continue through the end of April.

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