Literacy education nonprofit Preface donates more than 200 multilingual books to Graves Elementary School library

Graves Elementary School Principal Monica Ball’s first meeting with Preface founder J.T. Wu was entirely an accidental meeting.

The pair were at a Gwinnett Chamber Principal for A Day breakfast and the principal who was supposed to be partnered with Wu had not yet arrived.

“His principal was running behind and he didn’t have a partner, so he changed his seat and there you go,” Ball said. “We started talking and the rest is history.”

The Norcross school received a major gift from Wu and Preface on Thursday when the nonprofit donated a “legacy gift” of more than 200 multilingual books to the school’s library. The books highlight stories of people of color, ranging from fictional characters and their adventures to the stories of real life people such as Aretha Franklin.

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Credit: Curt Yeomans

There are also books on issues such as the importance of voting that were donated to the school.

Several of the books are also multilingual, designed to help children who come from families where English is not the primary language spoken at home develop a love of reading.

Ball said having multilingual books will be beneficial since some parents don’t speak English well and having books in their native language allows them to spend quality time reading books with their children at home.

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“It can difficult for our students when language is already a deficit,” Ball said. “So, when we have books that we need to at least allow them to see, ‘Oh, they have pictures of me inside of that book,’ or there’s something interesting in that book that they can reflect on and really connect to, then that is really important, not only for them, but also for their parents.

“Imagine being able to take a book home that’s in Spanish from school and the parent can read it to them. So, it’s an awesome way to make those connections that we really, really need because without our community being able to understand what we’re doing in a school, then it just opens up that gap.”

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Preface is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve early childhood literacy and provides multilingual tutoring at about two dozen schools in 11 states. It trains high school students in multilingual teaching best practices and has them read to elementary school students and work with them to develop their reading skills.

It is a partner with Gwinnett County Public Schools as well as other schools elsewhere in the nation.

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Although Wu and Ball met at the Principal for a Day breakfast, it was actually U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office that helped connect Preface officials with officials at Graves Elementary School, according to Preface’s founder.

“It’s thanks to Sen Warnock’s Office,” Wu said. “We were having some conversations around where are some schools that might have some need.

“They brought Graves to our attention and said there might be some need there and we kind of went from there.”

A representative of Warnock’s office attended the presentation of the new books on Thursday, as did U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga., who has been a supporter of Preface.

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Credit: Curt Yeomans

Bourdeaux said there are additional opportunities to benefit school libraries by getting used, children-friendly books that are made available through the Library of Congress.

“We’re starting that outreach (to schools),” Bourdeaux said. “We had a staff member who came on who said we can take surplus books. Now obviously, we want to take books that are fun books, not ones they’re just trying to get rid of because nobody reads them.

“So, we’re starting to collect those and starting to reach out to schools to see if they’re ones that they would be interested in.”

Wu said Preface also donated “thousands of dollars” worth of healthcare products, such as hand sanitizer, to the school in addition to the books. He said the library donation is just the beginning of the organization’s work with Graves Elementary.

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“With every new elementary school we get the honor of supporting, we celebrate the incredible work done by educators day in and day out by donating a legacy gift, just like you see here today, of a brand new library of children’s books,” Wu said.

“(The books are) chosen in consultation with teachers and leaders within the school community, that will help fuel a lifetime of kiddos for generations to come. This new literacy partnership that we’re celebrating today embodies the very best of what can be possible when communities, our nonprofits and our educators are supported by the visionary leaders at the state, the local and the federal levels.”

Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post

Credit: Gwinnett Daily Post


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