Alumnus launches online school books project

  • December 16, 2010
Alumnus launches online school books project

Tyler Hester works with musicians on school book project.

A Gates alumnus has launched an innovative books programme with online musicians to get people around the world to send books to schools in a deprived city in California.

Tyler Hester, who graduated with an MPhil in Education from the University of Cambridge in 2007, formed the Richmond Book Drive earlier this year with indie pop-rock musicians Pomplamoose – Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, whom he met at Stanford.

Tyler, a teacher at Leadership Public Schools Richmond, was grading his students’ quizzes at an ice cream parlor and talking to Jack and Nataly about his students. They asked how they could support his work and Tyler suggested flooding his school and the surrounding schools with outstanding young adult novels.

Jack and Nataly offered to help, and the idea for a book drive was formed. They have a Youtube channel with a huge following of over 200,000 subscribers. They say they are a new breed of social media musician which bypasses the old record label model. For the Book Drive, they are offering a free MP3 download of their Christmas album in return for people buying a book off an Amazon wish list compiled in consultation with school teachers and librarians. These include literary classics such as Romeo and Juliet, but also contemporary fiction.

So far over 7,500 books have been purchased worth more than $60,000. Those contributing include Pomplamoose fans in England, Germany and France.

Eight schools in Richmond are benefiting, including elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. All the schools are in deprived areas and have levels of English as a second language which are higher than the state average.

Each has appointed its own Richmond Book Drive Ambassadors – enthusiastic teachers who will make sure the books are used to engage pupils in reading as much as possible.

The books are used for whole class teaching and for the schools’ libraries.

The aim of the Book Drive is “to put compelling, relevant books into the hands of young people throughout the City of Richmond, California”. The Book Drive website says: “We aim to provide students — be they reluctant or voracious readers — with books that they will love, books that will turn them into lifelong readers and learners. In the process, we hope to spread the message that all students are worthy of investment, that none are beyond repair, and that ours is a city full of curiosity and hope.”

Tyler’s MPhil in education looked at the political dimensions of education policy as it affects English language learners both in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

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