Buffalo State College’s Global Book Hour celebrated its 10th anniversary this semester, although in a different, more socially distanced way than usual. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, an outdoor curbside pickup event was held Saturday, October 17, on campus to distribute books to parents who participate in the program. Students in the Elementary Education, Literacy, and Educational Leadership Department have also been recording weekly “read-alouds” on the Internet for the children they’re working with.
Global Book Hour is the brainchild of professor Pixita del Prado Hill and associate professor emerita Kim Truesdell, of the Elementary Education, Literacy, and Educational Leadership Department, who were inspired during a presentation on global literacy.
They envisioned a program that could at once foster literacy development, serve the community, and hone the skills of teacher candidates. Del Prado Hill and Truesdell contacted Wegmans on Amherst Street in Buffalo to see about a partnership and have been working with the grocery chain ever since.
Patricia George, lecturer of elementary education, literacy, and educational leadership, who took over as program coordinator when Truesdell retired, has been instrumental in continuing the work of Global Book Hour, moving the program in new and exciting directions.
A decade later, the program has grown in many ways, but its goal remains unchanged: to instill the joys of reading in young children and to provide resources for parents and educators. It also gives Buffalo State’s teacher candidates, who facilitate the program, the opportunity to serve in the community and to interact with children and families in a casual, fun environment.
GBH coordinator Patricia George prepares bags of books for the curbside pickup event.
A sort of literary great escape, Global Book Hour provides a clinically rich field experience that integrates geography, vocabulary, music, visual arts, and healthful eating into a weekly one-hour themed session. Each week focuses on a different part of the world, and all activities relate to it. Children and their families participate together. Wegmans Café provides the meeting space and a snack related to the week’s theme. The books the children read from are theirs to keep, and suggested activities are made available at the session and online for parents to continue the lessons at home.
“It promotes family literacy,” del Prado Hill said. “The children themselves benefit from having the read-aloud, and then the families have a chance to observe the teacher candidates and their strategies and practices. They are able to go home and continue to practice with their children.”
Before the pandemic, between 12 and 15 families had been attending the sessions.
“We know that our families that attend regularly are really missing Global Book Hour,” del Prado Hill said. “They’ve reached out and expressed how sorry they are that we don’t have a chance to come together. That’s why we put the curbside event together.”
George has created a YouTube channel called the Global Literacy Channel, to help parents learn many of the GBH literacy strategies and use them at home. The channel continues to grow, with teacher candidates from Buffalo State regularly uploading strategies and techniques for parents.
Global Book Hour has also outgrown its roots in the Professional Development Schools Consortium and found a home in the International Professional Development Schools program. Through a partnership with Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile, GBH has taken root there. When students from Chile visit Buffalo State, they participate and learn about the program here, and take it back with them.
“We try to share ideas, and it’s really fun for us to be able to learn from them,” del Prado Hill said.
Before the pandemic, GBH initiatives could also be found at the Westside Value Laundromat in Buffalo, as well as in Montgomery County and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with a teacher there who read about the project through an article in the Reading Teacher journal.
Del Prado Hill said that when the idea was first conceived, they weren’t sure if it would work. But through the support of the campus community and Wegmans, it’s grown well beyond what they first envisioned.
“It turned out to be a really wonderful relationship,” del Prado Hill said. “Everyone has embraced it. It really has captured imaginations on campus and beyond.”