Delivering literacy

Red Wagon Project provides books to children in need

By Camyle Cryderman
Campus Life editor

While majority of families in the Metro-Detroit area sustain enough income to live comfortably; unfortunately, many still do not. Part of the city of Westland is the home to many of these people currently struggling, with a poverty rate of 23.1 percent. Food, clothing and shelter are what most people think to provide to these families, but one aspect is typically overlooked: the need for books.

Thankfully, the Red Wagon Project has stepped in and is now asking all Schoolcraft students, faculty and staff to team with them and help collect and deliver reading materials straight to these families’ door.

A Red Wagon volunteer helps a child choose a book to read from the "library on wheels." Photos courtesy of Schoolcraft College.

A Red Wagon volunteer helps a child choose a book to read from the “library on wheels.”
Photos courtesy of Schoolcraft College.

Founded 15 years ago, The Red Wagon Project has a goal to improve lives by spreading literacy and knowledge throughout the Norwayne area of Westland. Volunteers collect books throughout the year, then load them up in red wagons to transport them by foot throughout the community.

“We go around the neighborhoods ringing a cow bell yelling ‘red wagon is coming!’ and all the kids come running out of their houses,” stated Site Coordinator Mary Ann Kocsis.

Not only do the children find great joy in this project, but they are also receiving invaluable knowledge through continued reading and growth.

“Reading is the gateway to so much higher knowledge,” said Andy Schuck, Head of Youth Services at the Westland Public Library. “Starting with reading, a person can branch out into so many new and exciting worlds.”

Without Red Wagon, most of the served children would not receive any reading material throughout the summer. This would not only put them behind in the upcoming school year, but as stated by ascd.org, children who are not proficient in reading by the third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school.

This project all started at St. Simon and Jude church in Westland and is still based there today. It has made such an impact on the entire community though, that it has branched out to Schoolcraft College itself. Donations of books are accepted at the church year round, but during the spring and summer semesters, donations are accepted at Schoolcraft as well.

A Red Wagon volunteer skims through a book with two children recipients.

A Red Wagon volunteer skims through a book with two children recipients.

“My spring social problems class now collects, sorts and delivers the books to the site,” said volunteer and Schoolcraft Sociology professor Karen Schaumann.

Deborah Taracuk and the Schoolcraft honors program collect donations throughout the summer as well, and this year has set a record with 2,391 books donated.

Books are not all that are needed though. The project also needs toothbrushes, coloring books, crayons, bubbles, single serve Kool-Aid packets and bottled water. All donations make an important impact on a child’s life and can be dropped off outside of LA521 or in donations bins on both Radcliff and Livonia campuses, as well as at the church.

On Friday, July 10, at 2:30 p.m. in the St. Simon and Jude Church, this year’s donations will be packed in the wagons and rolled out to be delivered. Anyone who would like to take part as a volunteer to deliver is welcome and is asked to contact Kocsis at the church at 734-722-1343 for more information. Anyone interested in beginning his or her own sect of the Red Wagon Project is encouraged to come as well.

“If you want to start this in your own community, come speak with me,” said Kocsis. “I will gladly give you your first red wagon to get started.”

The Red Wagon Project is about the children. The more donations, volunteers and divisions of the project started means more children will benefit. The need for education is evident, and the solution is simple and impactful. Come out, and lend a helping hand; pulling a little red wagon could change a child’s entire life.