MONROE, CT — Deborah A. Walls was a longtime educator who loved nothing more than teaching children to read. As a reading and language arts consultant for Monroe Public Schools, Walls started the school-wide reading initiative, “One School One Book,” which later evolved into “One Town One Book.” After she died of cancer at age 63 in 2017, her family honored her memory by donating over 500 books for the children who receive crisis and support services at The Center for Family Justice.
On Thursday, Stepney Elementary School students and staff kept Walls’ legacy alive by making another large donation of children’s books in her memory.
“There’s nothing more we like to see at The Center for Family Justice than young people getting involved in our mission,” Deborah A. Greenwood, president and CEO of CFJ, said Monday. “This book donation from the Stepney School is so meaningful because it comes from children and their families in memory of an educator who loved to foster a love of reading.”
“These books will bring comfort, joy, inspiration and learning into the lives of other children impacted by domestic and sexual abuse,” Greenwood said. “This donation is also special to me personally, because I have a granddaughter who attends Stepney School, so I know firsthand what a caring and thoughtful community it is.”
Stepney Principal Ashley Furnari said the donation is part of the Read-A-Thon at her school, linking reading there to the greater community.
On Thursday, Furnari said each child brought in at least one book to donate, while some families gave boxes of books to the cause. Staff members also pitched in and Furnari said more books were donated from the Stepney Elementary School library.
On Friday, each student filled out a name plate for the book saying “donated by” with their name, and created a bookmark to go with their donation.
A monetary donation will also be made in honor of Wall from funds raised by the Read-A-Thon. Over 60 percent of the children from grades K-5 (317 students) participated, devoting over 36,000 minutes to reading. More than 250 family members sponsored them.
In the past, $1,900 was the most money raised by the Stepney Read-A-Thon, but this year over $8,125 was raised, according to Furnari. Aside from a donation to CFJ, the funds will be used to purchase books for “One Town One Book.”
The Read-A-Thon includes a relationship between the school and Turning the Page, a local bookstore at 477 Main St. in Monroe.
When the weather gets warmer, Furnari said her students may have reading circles outside the school in a setup with Adirondack chairs and stools.
As part of the Read-A-Thon on Friday, students participated in class discussions on sharing their love of reading with others. Furnari said the book donations to CFJ added a community service project to this year’s program.
“It’s nice that kids learn to love reading during the Read-A-Thon, as well as supporting reading by donating books to the greater community,” she said. “It’s a great project.”