Star Wars books were an instant favorite for Vinson-Bynum Elementary School students pawing through some of the books Preface donated Tuesday.
Alongside the 150 books, the group provided thousands of dollars in health products like disinfectant sprays and gels as part of a legacy gift, the organization’s first in North Carolina, intended to celebrate the work educators do each day.
“This, to me, is the epitome of what being a Wilsonian is,” said David Via, Preface co-president and a Wilson native. “We were able to pull these resources and just make such an impact. … We were able to expand from Atlanta, Georgia, and now we’re across 11 states. And as we were talking about our expansion plan, it just felt right to come home and be part of this community again any way that I could.”
Preface, a nonprofit focused on early childhood literacy, has worked with Vinson-Bynum for roughly a year. Students involved in the program got a sneak peek at the books donated to the school library.
“We are so very thankful for them for coming out, for the services they’re providing to out kids,” Vinson-Bynum Principal Jenny Hayes said.
Preface founder and Executive Director J.T. Wu said the donated books are educator-approved. They include Spanish-language titles along with books written in English.
EarthBaby, a West Coast-based manufacturer, donated all the health care products.
Preface works to teach early childhood literacy through high school students who it calls ambassadors.
“Our mission here at Preface is to foster equality through education and early childhood literacy — often with a multilingual twist, and always at no cost to schools,” Wu said. “We do that by training high school students who are eager to serve and to give back, training them in educational best practices and then pairing them up in small-group reading sessions with young students to help bridge comprehensions gaps and help those young kids get to where we all know they can be.”
The Preface founder added that the nonprofit’s model has helped students progress from functional illiteracy to reading at or above grade level in as few as 10 weeks.
Wu said any high school student interested in becoming an ambassador can visit www.prefaceproject.org/apply to complete a short application.
Ambassadors will undergo training on educational best practices before Preface pairs them with students. Wu said the vetting and training process is quick and high school students can sign up now for fall placements.
Wu added that Preface has scholarship, mentorship and recommendation opportunities for its ambassadors.
“(Preface offers) anything that we can do to basically ensure that these high school students are getting the support that they need as soon as they leave the walls of the classroom,” Wu said.
In addition to Vinson-Bynum’s principal, teachers and students, a majority of Wilson County school board members were on hand for the donation.
“It’s a very important contribution, not only to this school and to these children, but to our system as well,” board Chairwoman Christine L. Fitch said. “The gives the opportunity for students to broaden their horizons with a wider variety of books that they may not have access to.
“We’re absolutely thrilled at the prospects of improvements to student performance and hearing them talk about the improvement over a 10-week span of time and having the kids read at or above grade level, which is so very important as we continue to strive to see our kids excel. We are thrilled to have this partnership with them, and we look forward to a long continuation and hopefully an expansion to other schools within our system.”