During Laura Hartl Gilbert’s years as a student at Morgan County High School, Mrs. Schubert was more than just one of her English teachers, she was “Aunt Blythe.”
As Laura ’09 got older, attended Marietta College and continued on in her adult years, she began to understand how much her aunt did to help the children in Morgan County — a rural county neighboring Washington County. When her aunt died in October 2017 after being diagnosed with cancer just a few months earlier, Laura decided to honor her by conducting a book drive.
For months, Laura, with the support of her husband, Josh Gilbert ’08, and their close friend, Leah Neal ’09, collected more than 1,200 books and, at the end of the school year, distributed them to every child in elementary school in Morgan County.
“After the outpouring of support that was shown for my aunt’s memorial book drive, the idea of Foreshadow Foundation was born,” Laura says.
She, Josh and Leah wanted to continue the book drive and opted to transition it into more of a book fair, which Laura says allows the children to keep their dignity while having access to free books.
“Currently, we are working with one school district, as a huge part of our initiative is to provide a fun and interactive experience for the kids benefiting,” Leah says. The friends chose Bright Elementary in rural Highland County, Ohio, where Leah attended grade school, as this year’s book beneficiary. “We all remember loving the Scholastic book fairs as a kid and want to make sure every child gets to have that experience, regardless of their ability to pay.”
The nonprofit foundation accepts donations through its Facebook page and through the website’s PayPal link. Supporters may also link directly to the foundation’s Amazon Wishlist to purchase books that will be sent directly to the organization.
“I now view promoting literacy as throwing the pebble into the still lake,” Laura says. “Giving children access to books encourages a love of reading. Once a child desires to read, their future in and outside of school is immediately brighter. I am afraid of a society that is so focused on literacy rates, we forget about the importance of encouraging a true love of reading. If we shift our focus from rates to inspiring children to want to read, I thoroughly believe the next generation will benefit far more.”
Josh says there are between 300 and 400 students in kindergarten through sixth grade in the Bright Local School District, which is east of Cincinnati. The goal is to collect between 400 and 500 books before the end of the school year so children will be able to have a larger selection at the book fair.
“The concept is simple,” Josh says. “In fact, it’s not much different than the book drive that started it all. Each year we want to partner with one school district and through donated books and money have enough to provide each child in that district a single book on their last day of school. It may not seem like much, but every fire starts with a single spark, every story with a single word and every success with a single life-changing moment.”
Learn more about the Foreshadow Foundation at www.4shadow.org
- Gi Smith