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Editor's Note: To celebrate the Read to Feed spring match, a $50,000 matching gift challenge that will match every dollar raised by Read to Feed students and classrooms around the country, we're sharing a special series of Read to Feed stories from teachers and students. 

And WOW! We exceeded our $50,000 goal ahead of schedule! We are so excited to see what happens when students and teachers in schools from all over the United States work together. With the success of this Read to Feed Spring Match, we have been able to access $30,000 in additional matching funds. That makes our goal of $80,000 the highest ever for a Read to Feed Matching Challenge—KEEP READING! The match is available until we reach our new $80,000 goal OR June 30, 2016. 

Last year, Columbia Independent School incorporated Read to Feed into their Global Perspectives program. As part of the school’s commitment to education, students are encouraged to realize the joy of living through both personal achievement and service to others. Columbia Independent is a Junior Kindergarten through 12th grade college preparatory school located in Columbia, Mo.

In its second year of implementing Read to Feed, the students' success took everyone – even their own administration – by surprise. Christine Sayers, Lower School Director at Columbia Independent School, took a moment to share the school’s success story with us in this question and answer session.

Adam Dubé, Head of School, and Christine Sayers, Lower School Director, celebrate the Make A Difference Award with 4th Grade readers.
Adam Dubé, Head of School, and Christine Sayers, Lower School Director, celebrate the Make A Difference Award with 4th Grade readers.

World Ark:  Initially, Columbia Independent School set a goal raising $500 to purchase a cow, but your students surpassed that with a final total of $4,610. That must be exciting for you; it is for us!

Christine: We are so happy to support Heifer and are amazed with this year's success. Last year, the students raised more than $2,000 for the same program, so they were inspired to aim even higher. They were thrilled with the final total. It helps them understand how they are capable of helping communities around the world from here at home.

World Ark:  Can you tell us how you incorporated Read to Feed in your classrooms?

Christine: We have always had Read-a-thon in our school, which is held the last Friday before Thanksgiving break. The entire school dedicates time for students to read, and it looks differently for various ages. In the lower school, teachers allow students to wear pajamas, and bring in slippers and pillows; they sometimes have a theme in their room such as "camping" where they pitch tents. They create little nooks for quiet reading of their favorite books.

World Ark:  This was a Lower School incentive, yet other schools got involved, correct?

Christine: It is really about a supportive family community. Parents can sign up to read to the class, or our older students sign up to read to the younger students. Even some of the specialist teachers work in the opportunity to focus on books in their classes.

World Ark:  For a one day read-a-thon, this is a remarkable achievement! How do you prepare for the reading day to get such a great response?

Christine: A couple weeks ahead of time, we start talking about Heifer and the fund raising opportunity. In our morning meetings, we read the book "Beatrice's Goat" and talk about Heifer. We share information in more than one meeting. Students are sent home with pledge letters and they collect pledges based on the number of minutes they read that day. Teachers usually give a guideline, such as, ‘We will read approximately two hours in our room.’ Some people prefer pledging a flat amount rather than per minute. We set the goal that we would like to raise $500 to buy one cow and ask everyone to help us reach that goal.

World Ark:  What did you do once you realized your pledges far surpassed purchasing a heifer?

Christine: We told students if they raised more, they could pick additional animals to purchase as a class. We gave them booklets and prices of animals to help guide their decision, and a budget based on how much money we raised.

Interview by Cindy Sellers Roach.

 My school wants to help! How do we sign up?


Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.