Years ago, Leigh Cataudo taught at a Greenwich middle school. She and a colleague ran a read-a-thon, with students raising funds to buy books for an underserved school.
She calls the project — which included her students helping elementary school children choose books, and read with them — “the most rewarding thing I have ever been part of.”
Leigh is now a realtor with William Pitt Sotheby’s. She’s also a Greens Farms Elementary School parent. She’s just brought the “Read for Change” program to her school — and the Luis Muñoz Marin K-8 School in Bridgeport.
(“Change” refers to becoming better readers, earning “change” by reading, and changing the lives of others.)
The project began last fall, as the pandemic raged. Her 3 children started the school year with many challenges — but, Leigh knew, they had the laptops, internet access, paper, markers and (most importantly) books they needed to do okay.
She was wary of putting too much on teachers’ already overloaded plates. But principal Kevin Cazzetta loved the idea, and invited her to help make it happen. Leigh reached out to her friend and football team co-manager Liz Leary. “Read for Change” was underway.
Students requested pledges from parents and relatives. To make it fun, non-intimidating and all-inclusive, Leigh and Liz let students decide how to ask. For example, newer readers could get pledges for the number of books they read, while more advanced readers could earn money for time spent reading.
Classes already kept daily reading records, so there was no additional work for teachers. There was a small prize each week for the class with the most participation, and a bingo board with another prize. Students were engaged and excited.
The excitement grew when the month was over. Leigh and Liz were speechless.
Their goal was to buy 1 book for each of the 800 Luiz Muñoz Marin students. Starting this past Friday, and through Tuesday, GFS is sponsoring a Scholastic book fair. Each child can choose 2 books.
“Friday was incredible,” Leigh reports. “The students and staff of Marin were amazed, and so very appreciative.
“We are so proud to be part of such an incredible school community, and to have the ability to offer the gift of books to so many students in our neighboring community.”