Leah Shin, 18, of Bothell, Wash., a senior at Henry M. Jackson High School, started a literacy club at her high school that mentors immigrant students in learning English and adapting to their new environment, and collects books written in English for kids locally and in third-world countries. When Leah, a second-generation Korean-American, was in elementary school, she was placed in an ESL (English as a Second Language) class even though she spoke fluent English. In that class, she saw how kids from more recent immigrant families struggled to read and understand. They did not own English-written books at home, so the little English they learned at school would be quickly forgotten, said Leah. After years of watching transfer students enter my high school lost, I wanted to do something that could help them get on their feet.
Leah formed a club called Literacy for Love and invited classmates to come to school early to meet with ESL students to practice English, form friendships, and help them integrate into their new community. She and club members developed a website, promotional video, and a Facebook page; and made flyers and posters to promote a book drive that yielded more than 6,000 books. She distributed the books to ESL classrooms and students, hospitals, senior centers and shelters; and is in the process of creating care packages containing books for children in third-world countries. Literacy for Love now has about 80 members and has expanded to other high schools in her area.