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.

Latest News

$75,000 grant for technology to assist people with disabilities

A Gates Cambridge Scholar and his colleague have been awarded a prestigious grant from Facebook Reality Labs to Dr Pradipta Biswas and Professor Yogesh Simmhan have been awarded a $75,000 grant from Facebook Reality Labs for their proposal on ‘privacy-respecting augmented reality[AR]/virtual reality[VR] to enable differently abled people in multi-cultural societies. The grant was the […]

Gut bacteria links to immune responses in the brain

Bugs in the gut may hold the key to protective immune measures in the brain which could have implications for diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to a new study led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Zachary Fitzpatrick. A paper based on his PhD research has recently been published in Nature and it highlights […]

Exploring the social barriers to take-up of green technology

How can rural communities be encouraged to take up green energy solutions? A new study co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath investigates the social barriers to uptake of household appliances fuelled by green energy. Based on research on more than 14.5K households in rural communities in Rwanda, the study, published in Renewable Energy, found […]

A new technique to decode the way the nervous system works

How do the billions of neurons in the human brain work together to give rise to thought or certain types of behaviour? A new study led by Gates Cambridge Alumnus Eviatar Yemini [2007] outlines a colouring technique, known as NeuroPAL (a Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks), which makes it possible – at least in experiments […]