Many people in the Houston area are stepping up to assist their fellow residents as best they can while storms batter the region—including Kathryn Butler Mills, a second-grade teacher at WoodCreek Elementary School in Katy, Tex., who this past weekend launched a virtual book club called the Hurricane Harvey Book Club.
In a telephone interview, Mills told PW that she was inspired to launch the group after receiving photos from her students sheltering from the storm, many of them with a book in their hands. Mills initially invited 70 people into the Facebook group—friends, past and present students and their families—and asked them to record videos of themselves reading books aloud for posting online with a goal of distracting Houston-area children from the tumult surrounding them.
“The purpose of this [group] is to bring joy and normalcy to so many that are currently dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,” Mills wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “It is a community of readers whose sole purpose is to support and encourage one another through storytelling. Teachers tell their students all the time that books can take them on far away adventures. This seems like the perfect time for these sweet kids and their families to get away from the chaos and fall into some really good books."
Mills told PW that she has heard from many adults whose children have posted videos on the group’s Facebook page, and that it’s “been as good of a distraction for the adults as it has been for the children.”
As of Thursday morning, the Hurricane Harvey Book Club has almost 45,000 members from all over the country on Facebook; there also is a small group following HurricaneHarveyBC (@HHarveyBookClub) on Twitter.
The Hurricane Harvey Book Club also is raising funds to replace Texas teachers’ classroom library books that have been destroyed in the floods. The club is selling T-shirts online, emblazoned with the words, “Be Brave/Be Strong/Be Readers/Be the Light/Hurricane Harvey Book Club.” With two weeks left in this fundraising campaign, as of Thursday morning, 432 shirts have been sold for $20 each and almost $7,500 has been raised.
“Never, ever, would I have imagined that [the book club] would have grown and reached to the degree that it has,” Mills wrote on the fundraiser page. “Texas is big and we have big hearts, but this little community of readers has shown me that Texas just got a little bigger with all of the support shown from around the world. Each little video has been a blessing. Each child who grabbed his or her book before evacuating so that they could post a video is braver than brave. Each one of you are the light.”
Mills added, “I selfishly started this for myself. It just turned into something really good and really big.”