How to Help a 2nd Grader

I need some serious help in the brain-power department right now. I have about 3 weeks to handle a problem that is keeping me awake at night. Here's the story:

My niece mentors a 2nd grade girl who attends one of Athens' public schools. Let's call her Jane. Jane loves to read, but has no books at home. Jane loves to color, but has no crayons at home.

Jane has a good friend in class, let's call him Bob. Bob is soooo jealous that MK bought Jane a book and some art supplies. Turns out Bob has no books or art supplies at home either.

MK spoke to the teacher, and learned this isn't really unusual. Some parents can't afford anything for the kids, some are working multiple jobs and have no time, and the library isn't always an option. When I heard this I thought "why doesn't somebody DO something about this?"

Ummm... maybe I am the somebody who should do something. I thought very hard about it, and I just can't let these kids who love to read go home to a summer with no books.

Turns out that the mentoring program doesn't allow a single student to be given a lot of free stuff; just a few things kept at school. So I am attempting to adopt the entire 2nd grade class, and give them a "summer satchel" with books and art supplies for the summer. The satchel itself will probably be a grocery bag, but it's what's in the bag that's important.

And that's where I need your help. (No, not your money. Just your ideas.) I'm putting up my own money to do this. But I have no kids of my own so I have no idea what kids like to read, or whether they'd prefer magic markers to crayons.

So please, if you can spend 5 minutes thinking about it, let me know if you can answer any of these questions.
  • Are there organizations out there already who help kids with books or art supplies?
  • Can you recommend any specific book titles that are good for 2nd graders?
  • Which is better: crayons or magic markers?
  • Which is better: coloring books or blank paper?
  • Any ideas what else should be in the bag?
  • Are there any good sources for cheap books? Cheap art supplies?

Here's how to post your feedback:

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You can also contact me at melaney @ gmail.com.

I look forward to hearing from you, and to making a difference in a few kids' lives this summer.


  1. Melanie,
    I applaud you for trying to make a difference in these kids lives. Having children with learning disabilities in reading, I would like to recommend to you the following: put anything in the bags you can find. A coloring book that has words or a story, a comic book, a joke book, a poetry book, or a small chapter book. John loved fantasy books and Eric loved Shel Silverstein's poems. I was told by the "experts", anything my child read was better than not reading at all. Go to the dollar store, wipe them out of inexpensive books; call the library - they discard books all the time; call the local book stores - they discard or reduce books all the time as well; call your local Moose lodge (or any fraternal organization)- they have an expense for educational purposes, maybe they can donate funds. Check out the Reading Rockets website at www.readingrockets.org. It helped me with ideas in getting my kids interested in reading. Last but not least - a boy scout was trying to collect books for a rural area in West Virginia and put a request for book donations on Craigslist. People donated all types of used books. Kelley

  2. Kelley - I LOVE the Craigs List idea! And thank you for the great source ideas, you've already thought of things I hadn't.

  3. Hey Melaney,

    I'll ask my co-workers and neighbors who have kids if they can bring in any books that their kids are not reading anymore. Hopefully we can get more than 1 book per child if several of us do that. Maybe then any money spent can be on crayons and markers.

    This is a great cause, I'm proud of you for helping!


  4. Moley,

    My 2nd grader, Ava loves "The Magic Treehouse" series. They are chapter books and there are a dozen or so in the series. Also, anything about animals, sharks, dinosaurs, horses. They are really into horse books. Hmmmm, I'll let you know if I think of anything else. What a great idea! I don't know of anyone that might donate - but you may want to try the Scholastic Book Fairs in your area and see if they have a warehouse that might be interested in donating some books. Also, there you can get really inexpensive paperback books, sometimes 2 for 1 type deals. ALSO, does your library ever get in on donations of this type? You could also have another school adopt them, and get those children in upper grades to donate gently used books that they no longer are interested in. Anyway, just some ideas. Best of luck to you in this - great idea!

  5. Hey Melanie
    I'm sure you are a blessing to the kids you are working with. My daughter is a 2nd grader so I asked her for ideas about your gift. For paper, she recommends the old-fashioned Composition notebooks with hard covers. They come in cool colors now. She says markers run out too fast, so colored pencils or crayons are best. Crayola makes Twistable types of both that do not have to be sharpened and they last a long time. Books that are good for both boys and girls are Diary of a Wimpy Kid (there are at least 4 in the series-they are very funny.) Also, Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne is a series of at least 30 different books. The stories are about 2 kids that time travel to different places. Erasers might be something else to put in. Very best wishes on your mission!

  6. Both my kids love the magic tree house series. You can't go wrong there. My Rotary club donates a dictionary to every kids in town in third grade so check with your local club. They might donate that and more. Good luck.

  7. Thank you Taylor for asking at work. I'll work out getting the books if anybody comes through.

    Thank you Peggy, Warren, and Stoff for the specific advice about what to purchase. I've never heard of those books and wouldn't have known where to start.

    Since my post I've learned there are EIGHTY children, and I have to be finished in 1 week.

    Thank you everybody!

  8. Also my second grader just reminded me of the Geronimo Stilton Series. He loves them and trades them with his friends. One set could be traded among the entire class.

  9. here is an organization that donates books to kids:



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