Our Program on Tuesday, August 2nd was the incredible speaker Lesley De Paz, Founder and Director of Story Orchard Books.  She started her presentation by saying, “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.”  As an 18 year teacher she explained that children with access to books and read during the summer have much better performance than those without and that for many children this is the unfortunate situation due to economics and not having the opportunity to “own” their own books.  Many teachers, especially new teachers, do not have the income to buy the extras books and materials for their classroom because of school district’s lack of funding.  Lesley saw the need and Story Orchard Books was born to try and meet that need. 
Lesley’s connection to our area is interesting.  She was a 3rd grade Spanish Immersion Teacher at Groveland Elementary from 2007 -2014 and then moved to Robinsdale to their 3rd grade Spanish Immersion Program. Linda Gustafson’s daughter Alana Erickson’s children had Lesley as their teacher and Alana stayed in contact with her because she believed in Lesley’s mission.  It was through Alana and Linda that she got connected to Don Draayer and became one of the recipients of books from our spring book collection project!
The Story Orchard Books logo came from one of her students who came up with the tree concept while he was supposed to be doing his math lesson!  She noted that the Mission of Story Orchard is to, “To provide children, families, teachers and community members access to high quality books and literacy opportunities as no cost.” She continued by saying that we try “To support all community members’ personal success through literacy opportunities and book ownership.” To help reach these goals she spent $4,000 to have a bike Book Mobile constructed to deliver “book Bundles” to give away to children, adults and families free of charge.  This is all possible by the donation of children and adult books to Story Orchard and financial donations to buy new books for distribution.
Fast forward to today. Story Orchard is in the process of opening a new Community Literacy Center sometime in late August or September manned by volunteers to sort and distribute children’s and adult books at their Northside location.  This is just the beginning as Story Orchard plans a myriad of activities, book clubs and programs to encourage literacy for Preschool/Family, Adults, Parenting Groups, Youth and Teen Book Clubs and Groups, and other adult classes.  Lesley smiles and says, “We have the outrageous goal to raise $25,000” to bring to fruition all of these goals of Story Orchard Books.  She thanked the Rotary Club of Excelsior for their donation of $1,000 and said, “We only have $24,000 to go!”