Chandra Perkins Finds A Need and Attempts to Bridge the Gap
For Amarillo Underprivileged Children
Chandra Perkins, a Curriculum Specialist for Emerson Elementary, learned of the Amarillo Bookmobile concept from a group of friends who remember it from when they were growing up. During the 50s and 60s, Amarillo only had one library location, so there was a mobile library that would drive around and allow children to check out, read and return books. The Bookmobile ceased when the Public Library created several branches all over town. Being a reading specialist, this concept struck a cord with Chandra. During the summer of 2016, Chandra decided to take some books to the Mesa Vera school park where one of her best friends, Charla Cobb is the Principal. Chandra has a soft spot for our refugee population and they have a large resettlement in that area. She started with 100 books she had collected and went to the park and came across 8 children. She offered to read to them and after they read, she told them they could choose any book they wanted to take home and keep.
Chandra has asked children in the same socioeconomic group as her own children what they have in their bedrooms and books is always in the top 4. Yet 68% of Amarillo’s children are officially economically disadvantaged and can count the number of books they have on one hand. In fact, 2 out of 3 children in poverty have zero books in their homes. Statistically, having books in the home is the biggest predictor of reading success. Chandra knows this to be a fact when she tests these children at the end of the school year in May and retests at the beginning of the school year in September. These disadvantaged children who don’t have books in their homes can become victim to what is known as the “summer slide”, which can drop their reading grades 2-3 levels. At the Kindergarten level, there are only 4 levels so this loss could put a child back a whole year. Children in poverty are no less bright or gifted and they are every bit as able, they just don’t have the access to the tools they need to succeed. When a child starts school with no literacy experience, they are starting from square one. Chandra’s motivation is to level the playing field for these children.
After the first day at the park in the summer of 2016, Chandra was on a mission. She prayed to God and told him she would deliver as many books as he would give to her. Soon after that, people began hearing of Chandra’s mission and new boxes of books started appearing on her doorstep. She began storing them in her garage and going back to the park every week and letting the children have as many books as they wanted. By the end of the summer, there were 80 families meeting Chandra at the park for storytime and free books. Chandra was receiving so many book donations, her church began to help store them for her. In March 2017, Chandra was contacted by Snack Pak 4 Kids who offered her a space in their warehouse.
By the 2016 school year, Storybridge was able to bring a selection of books for the 5 most needy children and their families. Storybridge has grown so much they are able to host book fairs and invite entire schools for the 2017 school year. They are able to provide for an average of 225 children each month as they visit a different school. This year so far they have been able to serve Robert E. Lee, Sanborn, Emerson, Mesa Verde and Glenwood. Books are sorted by age group and set up in the school cafeteria after school. The children are allowed to choose 10 books on their own, which Chandra feels it is important to the likelihood of them being excited to read them. There are hundreds of families lined up at the door and Chandra says, “It’s so exciting, it’s almost like Black Friday when you open the doors and they all rush in. And it’s all about books.” Chandra’s goal is to be able to serve all Title 1 schools in the district. According to Chandra, “My heart has grown 14 sizes since the beginning and it’s definitely a ministry to these children and our schools. It’s support that our schools desperately need.”
Storybridge has become a rapidly growing grassroots movement. As of December 2017, over 20,000 books have been distributed to our Amarillo kids since June 2016. Storybridge is always in need of your gently used books that can be dropped off at several locations around town that can be found on their website at www.storybridgeama.org. Any monetary donations they receive are used to fill in the gaps with new books, books in Spanish and ones containing minority characters the children can relate to. Storybridge has a sorting day on the second Saturday of every month from 10:00am-12:00pm. Volunteers are welcome to join in to help sort the books in age ranges of 0-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. Chandra will also be in need of volunteers to go to the area school parks and continue to read to the children and provide them books during the summer months. Check out their Facebook page for updates on events and current needs.
Chandra was a teacher at Rogers Elementary and Windsor Elementary for many years. Now being a Curriculum Specialist, she does literacy training and data analysis and supports the teachers at Emerson. She is an expert when it comes to elementary literacy and can back up facts and figures with data. Beyond her expertise, she has a passion for these children in need and providing them the books needed to help them succeed. Chandra has the knowledge to see a need with our elementary children in poverty and the passion to actually do something that can make a difference in their lives. Chandra is smart, open, humble and kind and Amarillo is so lucky to have her represent our area little ones in need.