It's the highest award possible in Girl Scouting
LEBANON — Alexis Davis loves to read — “Till four in the morning, sometimes” — and to share that love with others.
The 15-year-old Lebanon resident is making that passion into her project for her Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award possible in Girl Scouting.
She’s leading a reading project three sessions a week at summer meal programs in the Lebanon area: 11:15 a.m. Mondays at Christopher Columbus Park, 12:15 p.m. Tuesdays at Century Park, and 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Pioneer School.
She brings a few storybooks to each Reading Wonderland session, along with the materials to make a craft related to the story. Children also can choose a book to take home, then bring it back at the next meal to exchange it for another. When the meal programs wrap up, she plans a book giveaway.
Davis, a member of Troop 20285, also volunteers at Learning Perch, a tutoring program designed to help children boost their reading skills. But the summer meal program is all about inspiring children to read on their own.
“I know there’s a lot of kids out there who don’t actually enjoy reading,” said Davis, who will be a sophomore this fall at Oregon Connections Academy. “In an average session, I read a story to them, and we do something fun, and we talk about the book and we do something fun that goes with the story.”
On a recent Tuesday, for example, she read, “The Teddy Bear” to Noah Charves, 6, and his brother Mason, 4. She also had stacks of paper plates and markers to make their own teddy bear masks.
She might read a story several times depending on how many children come for a meal. “I usually end up staying at the park for about two hours,” she said. “We talk quite a bit.”
Davis goes to the library each week to prepare, sorting through a variety of storybooks and perusing online sites such as Pintrest to find accompanying crafts.
Girl Scouts pursuing a Gold Award must first identify a community issue, research it, then create a plan and build a team to help address it. They must dedicate a minimum of 80 hours to the work and pass a final interview. The plan also must be sustainable over the long run.
Davis chose literacy, which also was this year’s focus for Girl Scouts nationally. Her troop did a book drive as part of that recognition, which is where Davis collected the books she will give away at the conclusion of her program.
Her team includes the Lebanon Community School District’s nutrition program, which organizes the meals, and retired teacher Sue Spiker, who was her project adviser and helped her organize her lessons. Her mother also helps with transportation and picking up items for the craft projects.
The book giveaway is part of what makes her project sustainable, because the children will have them to keep, Davis said. She’s also creating a handbook about her project so future Scouts can continue the program, if they choose.
In addition, she’s found herself becoming an unofficial Girl Scout recruiter because so many children ask her about the organization. She’s taken to bringing paperwork to help explain.
Finally, she said, she’s hoping the project will achieve its ultimate goal: inspiring children to enjoy reading on their own.
If even one begins to do so as the result of the summer program, she said, “then my mission’s successful.”