The WePACket
Volume 1, Issue 2
March 2017

The WePACket returns with a more polished format and a new section, The RePACket, that responds to your questions and feedback.

Be sure to check out  Events and Opportunities  to see the high profile that WePAC has had lately in the media and a poll about a spring volunteer open house where you could score some books for your school. There is also information on a unique opportunity for schools to take their classes to court to learn about democracy, see a jail cell, and eat pizza. It’s all free including transportation.

And there is more. Heather writes about research and Rachel flouts her fantasy. We introduce a volunteer who fights cancer, and a school where the principal dresses as The Cat in the Hat.
Ron Kanter, Editor

In This Issue
  • Heather's Corner
  • Voice of a Volunteer
  • Events & Opportunities
  • Rachel's Tip of the Month
  • The RePacket
  • School Spotlight
Heather's Corner
Heather Farber, Executive Director

March 2 marked my one year anniversary as a WePAC staff member. It has been a very busy year (just ask my husband and daughter) but an exhilarating time. I'm honored to be part of this team working with all of you.

If you boil down what WePAC does, you get this: we inspire the joy of reading, which motivates children to read more. I recently picked up some research on reading motivation and thought, “How well does WePAC’s programming align with the research?”
The connections were readily evident. Read-alouds with discussion promote participatory learning, inviting students to engage with literature. Offering book choices drives interest, increasing the likelihood that students will follow through with the desired action: reading.

We want our students to become lifelong readers, but we send a mixed message when our library hours only cover some of the grades in a school.  

That’s why earlier this school year we kicked off a project called “Reach for the Stars” aimed at extending library access to all students at our schools. We’ve made progress.
Working to
Extend Our

Of our 14 libraries, 5 offer access to all grades, and we’ve expanded access to some higher grades (though not yet all) at another. We are working with several other teams to extend our reach next school year, so you can expect these numbers to climb. 
In many cases, we’ll need to grow our volunteer base to make this happen, which is why I’m so pleased with Rachel’s progress experimenting with new volunteer recruitment tactics.

Please continue to help spread the word about what we do, and thank you for your commitment to WePAC and the children we serve!


Voice of a Volunteer
Kristen Edwards
Kristin is a new volunteer. She combines her professional life as a radiologist with her weekly afternoons at Anderson Elementary School.  
How did you become a WePAC volunteer?
I heard about the WePAC library program through friends and about the great need for volunteers to open up the world of books to children in Philadelphia elementary schools. 

My parents instilled in me the love of reading by reading aloud - my father would often make different voices for each character and I loved it! As a child, I was an introvert, but once I started reading on my own, spending hours each day devouring books, I felt like the whole world was open to me.
Every Child
the Magic
of Books
I feel so strongly that every child should have the opportunity to experience the same magic of books. First, they have to learn to read and then be excited about reading in order for it to be sustained through school and life. I hope that reading aloud through the WePAC library program will provide a spark for their interest in reading.  
I have been a practicing physician (radiologist) for 15 years but last year started to experience burn out and decided to alternate working days with volunteer endeavors and WePAC is a perfect fit.  I was astounded to find out that the physical library space and books already existed in the elementary schools but could not be accessed by the students without the presence of a salaried librarian or volunteers. 
What does a typical day at Anderson Elementary look like?
We Often
Sing a 
Short Song

I am lucky to work with 1st, 3rd and 4th grade classes on Wednesday afternoons. As the students enter the library, two or three volunteers greet them and collect the books they are returning.

After the children are settled on the floor we often sing a short song together to center their attention and then the other volunteers and I take turns reading aloud for 20 to 25 minutes.

For the older classes, we often choose a chapter book to encourage them to become engaged in sustained reading.

The younger classes are quiet and absorbed when we choose picture books that capture their interest, but they may become restless if they are not excited by the book's content or with me as a reader! In those instances, I ask them questions about the book or I pause my reading, silently waiting until they have settled down. Children definitely appreciate enthusiastic readers!

After the reading aloud, the children are free to choose a book to take out for next week. Many will ask for help finding a specific genre - sports, science, jokes, fashion. Once we have found a book together, I may ask the child to read the first page to me to see if it fits their reading level. Books also have to be checked in, re-shelved and cataloged on an ongoing basis. My only regret is that there are not enough volunteers to open the libraries to older grades (5th-8th) since books can provide so much knowledge about the world and even guidance during adolescence.

What three words best describe your experience as a WePAC volunteer?
Trans formative

The words I'd use are uplifting, hopeful, and transformative. I am rejuvenated every time I leave Anderson Elementary.

The engagement the children show toward the reading aloud and toward the books they choose each week is so uplifting. 

Events and Opportunities
Open House
Being Planned
Poll for Spring Open House

We had such a lovely time back in December at our winter house open. Let’s do it again! WePAC wants to plan a time for volunteers to enjoy each other’s company and gear up for the last stretch of the school year after PSSAs. You can even choose some books to take back to your school. 

If you are interested please follow the purple button o r click here to let us know which possible time works best for you. We will try to pick a time that works out for most people interested. So be on the lookout for the invitation to follow! 
Kids Can
Go to
Court  and
Learn  about

Free Class Trip about Democracy

Federal Judge Ashely M. Chan invites elementary school classes to visit her courtroom to learn about democracy and the principles and documents upon which this country is founded.

After the presentation, the kids will see a jail cell, meet a bomb sniffing dog, have a pizza lunch, and fill out a crossword puzzle about what they learned. Designed for 5th grade level, the presentation can be revised for other grades. 

This is not a WePAC sponsored or organized event. However, if you'd like to make the principal or teachers at your school aware of this great opportunity, contact Ron Kanter ( for more information. 

If your school takes this trip, think about complementing it during WePAC programming by reading books about ­­the constitution, elections, and our system of government.

An Extra  Boost
of  Reading

Reading Swag Bags

This spring all of our third graders – about 1,000 in all – will receive reading-related “swag bags” and a book to keep… two gifts from WePAC that we hope will serve as an extra boost of motivation.

We’ll be finishing up the bags and the books in April. We’ll be in touch with team leaders soon to coordinate distribution. We also want to recognize Team First Book Philadelphia for the generous grant that allowed us to purchase the books.

in the News
In the News

WePAC's work was highlighted in several media reports over the past few weeks. Use these links to read the stories:

Rachel's Tip of the Month
Rachel Robinson, Library and Literacy Program Manager

What do Bruce Wayne and Beyonce have in common?

It’s something that I regularly do when I sit down and open a book before a crowd of children. I channel my alter ego. Whether it’s Batman, Sasha Fierce, or "Ms. Rachel," alter egos excel at helping us fight off bad guys such as You-Look-Ridiculous Man or the You’re-Just-No-Good Monster. When I’m being Ms. Rachel I don’t have to worry if I’m good enough because I don’t feel like it’s really me, it’s Ms. Rachel, secret goddess of story time.

Alter Ego
So, how can you harness the power of an alter ego? Ask yourself who are some of your heroes? Historical? Fictional? From movies? Music? Go ahead and make a list. Draw out some common themes or character virtues you wish to emulate.
Ms. Rachel was inspired by manga characters, goddesses from heroes’ journey myths and Mr. Rogers, among others. She is thoughtful, playful and exudes a larger than life, yet calming presence for the heroes she helps along their journey. 
It's Okay
to be
Who takes over your body when you pick up a book to read aloud? Does she have a name, a mantra, a secret piece of jewelry, a theme song? Is she more like the caped crusader fighting injustice, or more like Ms. Knowles: big, bold and beautiful? It’s okay to be playful and try on an alter ego for your next story time.  
This tip came from Jane McGonigal’s book SuperBetter and draws on the psychology of self-distancing.
The RePACket
Responses & Answers to your Feedback & Questions

What is the School District's Turnaround Network?

In the last issue we mentioned that Blankenburg and Heston Schools will be entering the Turnaround Network next school year. McMichael School is already part of it. The Turnaround Network is a group of low-performing schools the District has identified as requiring significant resources, instructional supports and structure to “turn around” and accelerate student progress. 

You can find more information here: 

Information on the School District of Philadelphia’s Website 

Article in The Notebook on Recent Decisions



Wow, that was a lot of great content, but The WePACKet was awfully long and used a tiny font size. My eyes went blurry!

You spoke, we listened!  We created a new newsletter format. And articles are shorter; font size is larger. Let us know if you like this format better or if things still need more fine-tuning. 
School Spotlight: James Rhoads School
Alexia Chororos
WePAC began working with students at the James Rhoads School, a K-8 school located at 4901 Parrish Street, long before we re-opened the library there in 2009. Alexia stepped into the volunteer team leader role this academic year.

We hold library session on Thursdays mornings for K-3rd grade. Classes visit for a half hour every other week. Students listen to a story and participate in a discussion/lesson around the story. Next, the children select a book to borrow for school projects or home enrichment. We often have a hands-on activity tied to the reading after they have checked out their book. This is often a coloring page, or written activity for the older students.  

Rhoads has a strong group of volunteers who have worked together for over 5 years. Kara Udicious is an experienced pre-school teacher. Eve Galvin holds a degree in early childhood education and is a trained teacher and literacy specialist. They work to select books and design curriculum.  

Jill Stavrakos is our cataloging expert and enters new book acquisitions into Destiny. Eileen Bruckman is a whiz at check-out. Suzanne Fabricant does research and makes lists of what we have in our catalogue. Alexia Chororos is the team leader.

We Created
ID Cards

The physical space at the Rhoads Library is large and stocked with thousands of books. We work with the school staff to keep it clean and well maintained. We have created patron ID cards for each student that they use as their library card. We use the Destiny system to check out books and track circulation.  

Our volunteer team works closely with the administration of the school to schedule classes and to coordinate literacy activities. We recently celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday in partnership with Donna Barreca, the School-Based Teacher Leader.  

The Principal
Dressed as
The Cat
in The Hat
We decorated the library with a Dr. Seuss theme, and the Principal, Mr. Dixon, dressed as the Cat in the Hat.  Our team led read-a-louds of some of Dr. Seuss’s less well-known titles, to provide increased depth to our students’ exposure to Seuss. 
For Read Across America Week we distributed a brand-new book to each student in the school (K-8). The cost was financed by a grant through the Team First Book Philadelphia program. The books selected for each grade level complemented the existing curriculum.

During another week, we had the pleasure of hosting volunteers from Santander Bank as part of WePAC’s Library Café events. Santander employees read the students books about money and saving and led discussion afterwards on the importance of making good choices. The students enjoyed Bunny MoneyBennies Pennies, and Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday

Rhoads has been a busy place this school year! 
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